Antonis Karatzikos, the new OGAE International IC spoke to esctoday.com about his plans for the immediate future, about his ambition to help found an OGAE club in every single participating country and expand the OGAE family, about his expectations for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade and his views on the voting system.
Let's start with a little bit of history. How long have you been the president of OGAE Greece?
I have been the president of OGAE Greece for the past two and a half years. I became a member four years ago, which is not a very long time but I have been a fan for the past 30 years. I had been looking for the club for a long time and I finally managed to locate it in 2003(he laughs). I always wanted it and when I joined I discovered how many things one can do both for the fans and the contest itself. I feel really strong to be able to take this as far as possible.
You were lucky enough to be faced with the challenge of being the OGAE club of the host country in 2006 and most fans admit you did a good job. Would you like to tell us a bit more about your experience?
Three months after Greece won the contest in Kiev, Aykut Berber, who was the elected IC at the moment, unfortunately resigned. Naturally, we could not go through the election process at the time so we looked through the OGAE network to see who could replace him. You understand there were a lot of pending issues, just nine months before the Athens contest. I thought about it, and also because our club has excellent relationships with ERT, our national broadcaster, I came forward and applied for the post. Actually I was the only one who did so at the time and it proved to be very convenient.
I served as a permanent IC (not elected but approved by everyone) for nine months. We worked miracles, that is we did what we could, because you know sometimes you want to do certain things and the circumstances or some incredulity from people do not allow you to go ahead with them. We wanted to organise the best Eurovision ever and especially for the fans. We did a lot for them and I am extremely happy for that. Obviously that was the fact that the other OGAE presidents appreciated and voted for me at the recent IC elections.
How long is the IC's tenure? Would you like to tell us about your plans, about the things you would like to do as OGAE International Coordinator?
An IC's tenure lasts two years. My first plan is to enlarge the OGAE family. Currently the active clubs are about 35, less than the participating countries.
Well, there are a lot missing. Surprisingly there are countries that have been participating in the Eurovision Song Contest for quite some time now which do not have an active OGAE club. Other countries, such as Bulgaria or Romania tried but unfortunately the result was not the desired one.
My first target is to be able to recruit people in these countries so that we can have an active OGAE club everywhere. Many of these countries got very close to winning the contest at times. For example, back in 2002 in Ukraine we were faced with a lot of problems because there was no OGAE Ukraine. I would not want OGAE International to have to go through that again.
It would be ideal if every country that expresses an interest to participate in the contest were able to create an OGAE club immediately. A club that will be able to develop fast and showresults from the first year. This is not a very easy task but it's not too difficult either.
What does it take to set up a successful OGAE Club?
What it takes, actually, is to find the right person to set this up. Naturally there is an interest at times from various people. You cannot be sure always that the people interested are actually the right ones to do the job. But it's certainly a start. The next steps involve how the local OGAE club can move inside the country's borders. How they can raise awareness of the OGAE brand locally, how they can recruit new members that have had no idea so far about what OGAE or generally a Eurovision fan club is. One of the most important issues that a local OGAE has to work on is a good working relationship with the local broadcaster. That is particularly useful if a country eventually wins the contest some day.
These are the first things that I would like to make my first priority as an OGAE International Coordinator. There are more plans, though, some more important, some less.
Let's discuss the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade
There are very high expectations for this next Eurovision Song Contest. First of all, it will be held in a very large stadium, so there will be a lot more fans present. It will be the biggest, or second biggest contest in history. If there are 15.000 seats it will be the second largest after Copenhagen, still it is huge. Consequently, the OGAE share of tickets will be larger, so more fans will travel to Belgrade. That means that we need to be much better organised this year.
What is very encouraging is that OGAE Serbia has amazingly good relationships with RTS, the Serbian broadcaster, and I think we will help each other very much when it comes to organization. We want to present a much more organised OGAE from what we saw in Helsinki and even Athens. We sincerely hope that OGAE Serbia will be able to surpass OGAE Greece and that is what we must all work for. We never wanted to keep the credits for organizing the best Eurovision for the fans here in Athens. We hope that each new winning country improves their services for the fans and there is really a lot of room for that. All it takes is vision and a lot of hard work.
This year, more than ever, there were a lot of discussions about East VS West, bloc and diaspora voting in the contest. Some say that the contest is dead, some others that it is alive and kicking. What is your personal opinion on that?
I will totally agree with what Svante Stockselius said, that is that Eastern countries put in a lot of effort in their entries, paying particular attention to the quality of the song as well as the . That is a fact, whether the western countries like to admit it or not.
Now about friendly voting, this is another fact that will always be present. Of course, when a country has a good song they will always find themselves in the Top 10. A country voted by all others, even if that means getting a few points from each, will always score high.
What concerns me, though is diaspora voting. Actually, it is there and only there I know that some countries constantly benefit. Maybe it is because the native citizens in many countries are not interested enough to vote for Eurovision. So the ones that get to vote each time are the people who believe they can make a difference, these are the immigrants. So, we see countries constantly benefiting by their extensive diaspora population.
Possibly a combined vote, jury and televoting, would be fairer. It would certainly be unfair to have a jury only voting system, that would change the entire course of the contest. On the other hand the televoting on its own creates problems. Songs that should rank lower are found in higher places and vice versa.
Esctoday.com would like to thank Antonis Karatzikos and wish him the best of luck with his new post.