Kjell Ekholm looks calm even if his work load increases each day. Being a member of EBU�s reference group he knows well what happens in the Eurovision Song Contest behind the scenes . In Helsinki he is responsible for the delegations and their well being. He spoke to Helsingin Sanomat of Helsinki 2007 and his past experiences in the Eurovision world.
Kjell Ekholm works very closely with his team that is responsible for finding hotels and driving the delegations around, press and accreditation, safety and volunteers, just to name a few of their responsbilities.To give you an idea of the size of the team, we should mention thatthe number of drivers willexceed 100 next week. Some of them will drive limousines, some more modest cars, depending on the persons they drive. “Also this year here are some personalities that know what they are worth” he laughs. There are 270 volunteers and Kjell says that they are also trained to know when they must just take a deep breath and count to ten before acting.
“Nervousness can make people act very strange” he tells but is diplomatic enough not to name anyone. “Over the years I have seen how the show business shows its ugly face every year after the semi final. In the afternoon you are still a big star in your home country and then around one o’clock at night the situation could be completely different. This year we have thought that on Friday everyone can go and rest their nerves in Finlandia Hall’s classical concert. It might be relaxing to hear totally different music and just forget it all for a moment. However it might be we will see the drop outs and the rest drinking the night away in EuroClub!”
“Of course the thought of May 13 crosses my mind every now and then. When everything is over in Helsinki and will start all over again somewhere else”. Kjell has been working in EBU’s reference group since 2002 so he works for the Eurovision Song Contest all year around. He has also been the head of delegation for Finland many times. For obvious reasons this year he isn’t but Päivi Konttinen has taken charge.
Over the years as the head of delegation he has had to comment for the Finnish media this and that, for example last year’s Silvia Night’s desperate need to get attention or various plagiarism scandals. “Plagiarism affairs are difficult. We can only give a statement whether the songs has been played before the dead line. The rest is decided by the court. Not always the plagiarism scandals are not true. Some of them havesettled outside the court room, for example one Nordic country in the 2000’s.”
Finland has been fortunate to have a member in the Reference group when the unexpected happened and Finland won. Kjell was well aware of the work load the Eurovision song contest will bring. “Still, it has been surprising how much there is to do. This year there is more technical stuff involved than ever before. Over 100.000 kilos of stuff is hanging from the ceiling in Hartwall Areena, all sort of new things Mikki Kunttu has gathered from all around the world over the past year.”
“The visibility of the contest in the city of Helsinki will surely be much better than in Athens, Kyiv or Istanbul and that is not not only because Helsinki is smaller. There will be screens all over the town that will show the videos of the songs before the contest, for example!” Kjell reveals.
Kjell also looks already beyond Helsinki. “We will surely have a new record of participating countries in the near future. Palestine could participate if they are accepted as a member of EBU. They have applied and the matter will be handled in EBU’s meeting in the beginning of May" Kjell Ekholm says.
“There will be also changes in the format in the future, once again” he says. “The new three year plan includes also an option for the final that will give an automatic place only for the Big Four. Having success this year doesn’t mean you will have a good song also next year” Kjell points out. If this optionis chosen,there will be two semi finals with the top ten from each one going to the final. If these semi finals will be on separate evenings or one after another is still under consideration. This new formatshould be introduced in 2009 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the preparations in Hartwall Areenacontinue slightly ahead of schedule. The stage will be used next Friday for the rehearsals of the opening and interval acts and the 14 first participating countries in the semi final will start rehearsing on May 3rd.