Volunteers are the lifeblood of Rotterdam 2021 – they keep the wheels of the event turning and help ensure delegations and crew can safely and easily navigate the venue and the Host City. But what makes local people want to give up their time for the Eurovision Song Contest?
Even though this year’s Contest has fewer visitors and reduced events around the Host City, there are still 600 volunteers donating their time and enthusiasm. They fulfil a number of vital roles, including delegation hosts, backstage and floor assistants, transport hosts, and managing traffic flow in the catering facilities and the COVID-19 testing pavilion.
Many of this year’s volunteers were recruited at the end of 2019 for the cancelled 2020 competition, then re-called for 2021 when the news was announced that the Eurovision Song Contest would go ahead. Potential volunteers had the opportunity to pitch to the Heads of different departments before they found out if they had been selected, and where they would be working.
Volunteers at this year's Eurovision range in age from 16 to over 70, and come from all kinds of backgrounds, including students, HR managers, doctors and carpenters. 54-year-old business owner Rob Maas, a Dutch national from Den Bosch was delighted to score a coveted role working on the Delegation Service Desk.
‘I remember watching Teach-In win Eurovision with Ding-a-Dong in 1975,’ says Rob. ‘I always told myself that when the Netherlands won again I would get involved. I waited 44 years for the win, and another 2 before I could volunteer!'
Eurovision has been a big influence in Rob’s life – it inspired him to learn five languages and bring different cultures together in his own business:
‘I was willing to do anything here,’ adds Rob, ‘but it’s truly special to be working at the heart of the event. This morning I started at 07:30 and I was alone in the Delegation Bubble. Malta’s Destiny arrived and they were all singing together, it felt like my own private concert!’
21-year-old Vilius is a Lithuanian national living in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. He’s currently working for Recruit a Student and studying Leisure and Event Management at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. Like Rob, Eurovision has been a big part of Vilius’ life. He’s watched the show every year since childhood, and when Duncan Lawrence won for the Netherlands in 2019, he decided to find out how to volunteer.
Because he has experience of co-ordinating volunteers, he was invited to work at the central volunteer desk. He meets new volunteers when they arrive, shows them round the venue, and deals with any questions or problems.
‘The experience has been wonderful,’ says Vilius. ‘Probably the most memorable moment was when I was asked to help with Delegation rehearsals. The first one was The Roop from Lithuania, so it was a lot of fun to see them and quietly support them!’
In exchange for giving their time, volunteers receive exclusive clothing, a goody bag of gifts and free meals in the venue. But what's most important is the chance to get involved in something truly special - it’s a unique opportunity for local fans of Eurovision, or Songfestival as it’s known in the Netherlands, to be part of Eurovision history. Who knows when it will be back?