ITALY – Martin Österdahl, chief executive of the Eurovision song contest at the organizer EBU, addressed the situation in Ukraine already in his opening speech when the heads of delegation of the competing countries met in Turin on Tuesday.
“I said that of course, we are desperate about the situation in Ukraine like everyone else. And I’m sorry for our colleagues and lots of fans in Russia who are now not allowed to celebrate Eurovision. We are in very close contact with the Ukrainian delegation and we try to help them as much as possible through this tough time”.
The band that will compete is called Kalush Orchestra. Their competition song “Stefania” is widely used in Ukrainian propaganda against the invasion. Ukraine leads the band’s singer Oleh Psiuk a group of volunteers who help refugees and one of the other band members is selected for the Ukrainian defence.
According to officials at the Italian television company RAI, which produces this year’s Eurovision song contest, the Kalush Orchestra will, like all other participants, record a backup video, a rule that was introduced before 2021 in the event that a pandemic or other circumstances would make it impossible. that the artist was on stage.
Martin Österdahl says that he and his team have contact with the Ukrainian head of delegation almost daily. At the highest level within the EBU, the Director-General also has equally regular talks with UA: PBC’s top management.
“We plan for it and we hope for it. Then we have to do like everyone else and take one day at a time, says Martin Österdahl. We at EBU have the task of supporting public service companies in Europe and when a member like UA: PBC (the Ukrainian television company, editor’s note) is in a type of crisis that they are in now, it is obvious that the EBU trying to help. That’s what we’re here for.”
THE 1993 BOSNIAN CASE
Almost 30 years ago, in 1993, the Bosnian war was going on and while Sarajevo was under siege, the band Fazla flew out of the army to get to Eurovision in Ireland. They were literally under fire …
“The stage must be free from political messages”
During Tuesday’s meeting with heads of delegation around Europe, he emphasized that the competition must at the same time be apolitical.
“Even if our thoughts and feelings are on things outside the competition, we must remember that our stage, which everyone shares, must be free from political messages and gestures. This is something we have decided many years ago. We must remember that it should be an “even playing field” as much as possible. Everyone should have the same chance to be in the spotlight. But it is clear that it is difficult. Because it is still an entertainment program and a highlight for many. It should radiate hope and positive feelings of unity, we do not want to show barbed wire and tank fencing. But we can not just stick our heads in the sand either.”
THE KALUSH STATEMENT
Oleh Psiuk, the conductor of the Kalush Orchestra, was recently featured in a video by the Ukrainian network UA: PBC. While Eurovision is essential to the group, they are now focusing on helping their nation.
Oleh tells Reuters that he has organized a 20-strong volunteer organization to deliver medications and aid individuals fleeing the violence, while one of the Kalush Orchestra members is serving in the territorial defence force.
“No matter under what circumstance we will go to the Eurovision, I will try to be useful for Ukraine. Even if it (war) is all over in the nearest future, it won’t be easy anyway because we will need a lot of time to rebuild. The country is in ruins,” he said. “If you think it will not happen to your country, there are no guarantees for that. We also thought that it would not happen to us. That is why let’s stop it as soon as possible,” he said.
“We want peace to finally come to Ukraine.”