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Jon Ola Sand: "It only takes one big surprise"

06 May 2012 at 15:46 CEST

It is Sunday, just a week before the rehearsals with the contestants start. How would you describe the preparations as they are going on right now?

This is a critical phase of the preparations. There is very little time left and we cannot afford anything to go wrong. Millions of details are to be thought of. So everyone has to perform at their best, not on stage, but especially behind the scenes!

The Ictimai TV core team and the EBU are now working from 'on-site', as we call it, at the Baku Crystal Hall, and we will work long days from here until after the Final.

Hectic, but very professional atmosphere. It is some of the best organised chaos one can find in the TV industry. I have never seen so many of Europe's top TV professionals gathered on one square kilometre as right here, right now in Baku.

What's this year's innovation?

The Eurovision Song Contest has always been in forefront. This year, we're taking things to the next stage. I don't want to reveal all the details yet, but those who have been following it for the past years will notice some cutting-edge innovations.

We are now working with the Host Broadcaster on the finishing touches of the content, to make sure that this is not only a pan-European production, but that it also represents the culture of Azerbaijan.

What are the challenges you face this year?

We have seen a lot of media coverage that connected political topics to the Eurovision Song Contest, some of it not even based on correct information. I believe we should keep politics out of the contest, as we have done for 56 years. The Eurovision Song Contest is an opportunity for Europe to get to know Azerbaijan, and for the media to visit the country, get to know its culture and people.

Of course, people work very differently in Azerbaijan compared to - let's say - Norway or Germany. For me it is very important to get to understand that way of working, so the EBU team can adapt to it. After all, we are guests in their country.

When you heard the 42 songs - what were your thoughts?

There is a great diversity in style, background and even age! I very much appreciate that artists take the freedom to sing in their own language, and use cultural elements and instruments in their songs and acts. The quality level is definitely very high.

The Eurovision Song Contest, over the past years, has become much more than a TV show. What can we expect in Baku outside of the Crystal Hall?

Baku is very friendly city, with a great buzz, especially at night. Everyone is gearing up, from hotels to taxi drivers, from the airport to the Bulvar. The Host Broadcaster is not only working closely together with us, but also with sponsors, cultural organisations and the authorities, who are contributing to the event with highly professional security and logistical support.

There is a lot of speculation on the internet about who is going to win, and the shortlist of potential winners is said to be very short. How do you look upon this?

Every year there is a lot of buzz in the lead up to the contest. Then the rehearsals start and it often makes a big difference in the way the outcome is predicted. And in the end, we've seen over and over again that the bookmakers and even the fans appear to be very wrong with their predictions. It only takes one big surprise to turn it all around. Anything can happen, we've seen it before and 2012 is no exception.