Martin Österdahl, a senior TV executive with 2 decades of experience, was appointed Executive Supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest and Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Almost 5 months into his new job, it's time to catch up about the year ahead.
Martin was the Executive Producer for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013 and 2016 when the event was hosted by Swedish EBU Member SVT in Malmö and Stockholm and was a member of the Reference Group between 2012 and 2018. He relocated to Geneva - where the EBU headquarters are located - at the end of August and has just settled in.
In January 2020 he told us: ”The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s largest live music event and the longest-running show on television. Its ability to entertain and unite people across Europe and beyond is unique and something that should never be taken for granted. I feel greatly honoured to be given the opportunity to strive for its continued evolvement and popularity into the future."
When the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 was cancelled in March, he took to Instagram and said: "For all of you who have worked day and night for almost a year to prepare for Rotterdam, I have an important message from my own experiences: Because of its nature, the ESC project has given you the opportunity to stretch your minds and talents to their full potential. That’s a rare thing to be blessed with. The things you’ve learnt through the ups and downs of this mammoth project, have forever changed you, improved you as professionals and as human beings. The knowledge you’ve acquired and the friends you’ve made will stick with you forever. In the face of future challenges you will come out better equipped and stronger. Right now we need to care for each other and our societies, show kindness, gratitude and empathy. Whatever happens next, this is not an end. This is not the end of OUR show."
The resilience of the Contest
As we all know, a lot has changed since January but the Eurovision Song Contest has shown its resilience and presents opportunities for the Eurovision family he says: "Of course, this situation comes with challenges, but it also presents opportunities for the EBU, the Host Broadcaster and all the members. We show that this long tradition of working together is really true. The Contest is strong in its true sense, but it can also be flexible and resilient."
Martin adds: "One of the many fascinating things about the Contest is that it is co-produced by so many countries and broadcasters. They all have different cultures, languages, rules and regulations and financial capabilities, but somehow through decades, we have been able to collaborate on this show for so long. And this year, it will be even more important that we work together."
Scenarios for Eurovision 2021
Earlier in September, Host Broadcasters NPO/NOS/AVROTROS presented 4 scenarios to make Eurovision 2021 happen. Martin said: "We are working on back-up scenarios to provide a healthy and safe environment for those who will travel, but also finding alternative ways for those who will not be able to travel. It is important to make contingency plans, as you can never foresee all scenarios. It is also normal to make back-up plans when you produce a live show like this one. This year particularly, it has to be more advanced than ever before."
The 4 scenarios
Scenario A is a Contest like we are used to. Tens of thousands of visitors from the Netherlands and abroad travel to a sold-out Ahoy and a bustling Rotterdam.
Scenario B is a ‘socially-distanced’ Song Contest. This scenario is based on the current guidelines set up by the Dutch government. This means there will be fewer audience members in the arena and adapted activities in the host city.
In Scenario C, there are travel restrictions apply for some, most or all participants. The artists who can’t come to Rotterdam will perform in their own country. The shows come together in Rotterdam. Most side activities are replaced with virtual alternatives.
Scenario D is a Contest in lockdown circumstances. There are no delegations in Rotterdam, all participants perform from their own country and there is no audience in the venue. Most side activities are replaced with virtual activities.
A definitive choice will be made based on the situation in the early months of 2021.
Martin added: "In my experience with being the executive producer in 2013 and 2016, I've learned the enormous complexities of the show but also the great opportunities that come with it. This year, there are great opportunities to find ways to transcend the boundaries that we are facing to get together in May in Europe, to show that we are very much together."