Choosing Tartu to be European City of Culture 2024 was not a unanimous decision, the head of the independent selection committee said on Wednesday, adding that there was some very heated debate around the discussion table.
The chair of the international independent expert committee, Beatriz Garcia, said discussions to choose the winner had been "probably some of the most intense debates that I can recall within the panel."
"Some panel members preferred Narva, so it was not a unanimous decision. There was a majority, of course, in favour of Tartu but there were very strong views for both cities and some members until the very end preferred to go for Narva," she said.
Adding that the competition had been "a good example that you cannot take for granted who might win."
Speaking to ERR News after the winning bid had been announced, she said that both teams had presented "strong and inspiring cultural visions," but that Tartu had been clearer on how these ideas would be implemented.
Garcia said: "There was a clearer sense of a well developed cultural plan for the city and the way the themes had been developed were very well linked and developed across all of the criteria. They had a very, clear, solid and robust indication that this could become a reality."
Speaking about Tartu's theme, the "Arts of Survival" she said: "You are talking about a topic that is relevant globally, so actually anyone can be talking about the art of survival it's just that they [Tartu] are being very clever about how they present this, and showing they are going to do something which is memorable and which everyone in the world should pay attention too."
Garcia also praised Narva's efforts and encouraged the team to keep the momentum going. This is something Ivan Sergejev, who ran Narva's bid and is the city's chief architect, agreed with.
Speaking to ERR News he said: "Of course it was disappointing [not to win] but we have gained so much through the process. But now we have a playbook, a sense of how to keep going and a strategy for the city, the application itself and what went into it is a program of ideas for events of how to engage with our citizens better."
Sergejev also said that he was proud of what the team had managed to achieve as the bid had been through some "ups and downs". "It's an honour that we could put up a good fight against Tartu," he said.
When the winning city was announced there were shrieks of joy from the Tartu 2024 team.
In a statement Mayor of Tartu, Urmas Klaas (Reform), said: "The activities planned by the Capital of Culture support the growth of Tartu's international reputation and well-being, the strengthening of inter-generational cultural ties and the development of young people's opportunities for self-fulfillment."
Tartu's was also supported in its bid by 19 other municipalities in the south east.
The competition for the title of the European Capital of Culture began in November 2017. Tartu, Narva, and Kuressaare, the capital of Saaremaa, put themselves forward as candidate cities.
What happens next?
Tartu's plans will continue to develop and the Tartu2024 team will meet with EU officials to make sure the plans are on the right plan next year.
Tartu will take over as a European Capital of Culture in 2024 alongside a city from Austria, and one from either Norway of Bosnia. These will be selected later this year.
The European Commission will award the winner the Melina Mercouri Prize of €1.5 million. Tartu will receive around €10 million from the Estonian government and European Union to help implement its plans.
What is the European Capital of Culture?
The European Commission website says: "Melina Mercouri, the then Greek Minister of Culture, took the initiative to start the European Capital of Culture in 1985. It has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe."
"Cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, promote the participation and active involvement of the city's inhabitants and contribute to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region."
"Holding the title of European Capital of Culture is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their development through culture. The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and the region."
Every year two EU cities and one EU candidate or European Economic Area member are selected as host cities of the capital of culture.
Beatriz Garcia said at Wednesday's press conference that being awarded the title is a "privilege and chance to use culture to contribute and shape the European project, a project that is never finished and is of critical importance in today's ever-changing world".
Editor: Helen Wright