Don’t expect international artists at Antwerp’s Sportpaleis this year
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Don’t expect international artists at Antwerp’s Sportpaleis this year

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Sportpaleis isn’t counting on performances from any international stars until 2022, as a result of the coronavirus.

The music venue is the second most visited event hall in the world, according to Billboard Magazine, second only to Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Even if people were to say on 1 July that the sector could open again, we should not forget that programming for large arenas often takes nine to twelve months to prepare,” CEO Jan Van Esbroeck said in a panel discussion about the future of the Belgian music sector.

“Moreover, the kind of artists who can fill the Sportpaleis will not crawl into their tour bus just for us. The rest of Europe must also be open for that to happen.”

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There are quite a few international superstars already on the calendar for the summer and autumn, including Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton and Iron Maiden. But isn’t known yet how many of these will end up being cancelled or postponed.

Celine Dione is still technically scheduled to perform at the end of March, even though Van Esbroeck says it’s understood that the show won’t take place. He says that reasons for an artist not communicating this officially yet sometimes have to do with insurance issues.

“As long as they are scheduled, you never know,” Van Esbroek told DS. “My statement [on the panel] was not an official announcement, but an externalisation of my gut feeling.”

He pointed out that 2021 hasn’t so far proven to be the transition year people hoped for, adding, “That’s why we shouldn’t be naive.”

The plan instead is to open the doors of Sportpaleis for local artists, according to De Standaard.

Belgium’s Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke emphasised that the first step is the vaccination campaign.

“Then we want to reopen life step by step,” he said. “But I don’t want to put any timing on that right now, nor say what those steps will look like. I would rather admit that there is uncertainty than give false certainties.”

The next consultative committee meeting is scheduled for 26 February.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times