He’s the long-serving Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, as he prepares to move onto pastures new, Jon Ola Sand has reflected on his ten-year tenure in an interview with Dutch portal AD.

Jon Ola Sand AD interview

Eurovision 2020 in the Netherlands

Jon Ola has full confidence in the Dutch and their capacity to produce a contest as big as Eurovision. “I think it will be a great, creative, advanced production. Expect a lot of technical highlights. As the country that has devised plenty of TV formats, such as The Voice, the Netherlands naturally also has a reputation to uphold. It is easier to work here for the EBU than other past hosts, where there was less experience with large live shows. The Dutch have a strong reputation in TV production, and you will see that.”

Albeit the television executive kept schtum on specifics: “I am not going to say too much about it right now, but I can say that something of a Rotterdam vibe will be heard across all the show. Their art, culture, and history of reconstruction.”

Humour

Sand, however, holds a strong stance on one key element of the show: humour. While the Dutch broadcaster aims for a more relaxed production, he is wary. “A lighter presentation is fine for me. But humour doesn’t travel, I always say. What the Netherlands thinks is hilarious, other nations may not see as. You saw that for example in the Swedes who had really fantastic shows, but where the jokes did not come across universally.”

Changes through the years

He also talks about some of the biggest changes he’s seen in the contest. “The abolition of the live orchestra created space for more participants. Organizing a show with 41 countries with a live orchestra was just too complex. Another important change was the comeback of the professional jury. In the years that only viewers determined the outcome, it was more and more about the statement. Now that there are again juries, the time of the singing turkeys on stage is over. The music takes center spot. Also, the entrance of Eastern European countries. They brought new life, they took it very seriously back when it was diminished somewhat in Western countries.”

The singing turkey refers, of course, to Ireland’s infamous 2008 entry — Dustin the Turkey with “Irelande Douze Points”.

Political and bloc voting

However, he has recognized the different dynamics some Eastern European countries may have: the quirks between the Balkan, Caucasus and ex-USSR blocs, namely tensions between countries that downvote each other for reasons that go beyond the musical.

“That is indeed not good, but what should we do? Throw out those countries? We can’t. We are already proud that they are on the same stage. We want to keep them on board and hope to change the situation again in discussions and dialogues. We have often thought about a different scoring in recent years. Twenty five percent for the professional jury and 75 percent for the public, for example. Or vice versa. But we think the current fifty-fifty distribution is the best. And I do think that any unbalanced distribution has since been compensated by the reintroduction of professional juries.”

Participants from North Africa and the Middle East

And lastly, he touched on increasing the number of participants at Eurovision. It’s a constant topic on the Supervisor’s table, especially in regards to the countries in North Africa and the Middle East. These include Jordan, Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon, the last of which came close to debuting in 2005. Morocco competed once in 1980. With a contest of such magnitude, he would recommend to both keep a regular scale, but also keep an open mind.

“We have 41 countries this year and we would be at our limit with 44. We just can’t get a bigger festival organised in one year. While I personally would be in favor of accepting Middle Eastern entries and make Eurovision more varied, I have received no signals from them. We do have regular conversations with Morocco, who may be in for it again in the future. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say no to an EBU member who wanted to participate.”

Eurovision 2020 will be Jon Ola Sand’s last contest as Executive Supervisor. Martin Österdahl takes the helm of Executive Supervisor from 2021.

Follow all of our Eurovision 2020 news.

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Bart
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Bart

Yes indeed!

Metalvision Song Contest
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Metalvision Song Contest

“Now that there are again juries, the time of the singing turkeys on stage is over.”
That sentence is also true with one t capitalised. ^^ Pretty clever, Jon Ola, I see what you did there!

Emkay
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Emkay

I think the majority of loyal Eurovision fans usually expect some uneven comedy segments from the show. I think putting humor aside for ESC would be a big mistake. A bad comedy routine has almost never been enough to make anyone turn the show off.

jeicjsjf
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jeicjsjf

if the arab/middle eastern nations weren’t so preoccupied with israel they could bring something really interesting to the table. a lost opportunity tbh : (

Krees
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Krees

What I don’t get is that these Arab nations also compete alongside Israel in the Olympics, so what makes Eurovision different?

Fast Food Music Lover
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Fast Food Music Lover

I’m always down for some ethnopop banger.

Jo.
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Jo.

Casablanca 2022

Stephen Griffiths
Guest

Please don’t leave Eurovision Jon Ola Sand your the true voice of Eurovision.

Denis
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Denis

Comedy can travel! It’s all in execution. If it’s well executed it can travel far! I found Sweden and Denmark worked because they knew how to joke. And of course Petra being a comedian helped because she knows how to deliver jokes.
Where as Austria and Ukraine didn’t travel because while they had funny stuff they didn’t know how to deliver them, or tell them. Which made it just boring and embarrassing to watch…Israel was OK with Azi? and Portugal was OK when Filomena was on stage!

Bart
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Bart

I feel that Petra is hugely overestimated and for me she delivered a lot of cringy moments. So I guess Jon Ola is right when he says that humour doesn’t necessarily travels well.

Moongaze
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Moongaze

The time of singing turkeys is over??? As I recall, a singing hen won 2 years ago…

Paul
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Paul

I’m kind of glad he’s going. He just needs to lighten up a bit

Mia
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Mia

“Humor doesn’t travel”, instead of pointing those pretty much funny hosts, why not point at BBC commentary who often cross the line? No wonder serious UK artists doesn’t want to participate because of that attitude.

jeicjsjf
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jeicjsjf

the british commentators are usually some of the best in my opinion. especially graham.

Marios
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Marios

Come in. As long as it’s not USA 😀

Fionn
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Fionn

And what about Kazakhstan???

Stevan
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Stevan

How dare he insult Dustin???

L’oiseau
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L’oiseau

Oh I really wish Morocco would join! That would be awesome and long overdue! But apparently ESC is not very popular there. As for Jon Ola’s mandate, I must admit a lot, a LOT, has changed for the better. So after all, a very good job. I hope his successor is able to fill in his shoes

pepe
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pepe

Is he saying that A Capella Shoes are a typical Israeli joke the rest of the world don’t understand?

GEE
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GEE

Samira Said for Morocco 40 years later. One can only dream.

L’oiseau
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L’oiseau

Oh yes! Wouldn’t that be something?

Fionn
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Fionn

I just recently discovered her Eurovision song from ’80 and I loooooove it

Davve
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Davve

Why does he mention Sweden as an example. Petra and Måns was funny. Compare them to Ukraine and Portugals hosts or the Israelis that were CRINGE!

Whisker
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Whisker

Petra carried the whole show when she presented by herself. She was AWESOME.

Krees
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Krees

There’s a reason why Sweden relied on Petra to host the show twice. She can drag the whole show by the collar.

pepe
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pepe

Filomena was as great as Petra Mede. Unfortunately she had to share the stage with three less talented hosts.

L’oiseau
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L’oiseau

Indeed Petra and Filomena would give an excellent pair. Mans on the other hand was just average. Catarina and Silvia were indeed awful. Daniela ok

Sam
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Sam

The hosts in Tel Aviv were miles better than Portugal’s and definitely than Ukraine’s (the worst and most cringiest in years). But maybe he’s referring to Eric Sade’s MILF joke that didn’t go down well?

Bart
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Bart

Don’t agree at all. I admit the Israeli ladies were much better dressed than the Portuguese who overdone it and were changing gowns all the time. Other than that the Israelis had pretty cringy moments too and were at best just average. No one of 2019 could even compare to Filomena.

jeicjsjf
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jeicjsjf

lucy ayoub was the worst host in my opinion, but i think assi, erez, and bar were all acceptable.

Bart
Guest
Bart

I agree they were acceptable, but not “miles better” than the Portuguese, as Sam wrote. They were cringy moments, but there always are cringy moments, even with Petra and Mans. Well in my opinion Mans, as a presenter, is a permament cringe… He should stick to singing

Davve
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Davve

Jon Ola does not like comedy? What a surprise. I see him as a jolly cheerful guy

Whisker
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Whisker

I do hope I am not the only one who sees the humour in this.

Joe
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Joe

I agree with almost everything he says here except the humor bit. It depends on the jokes, I think. Specific humor styles might travel better than others, but cleverness is universal. Whatever local tastes may be, stuff like Petra and Måns’ banter, the Eurovision History Museum, and pretty much anything with Verka travels easily. (The Chinese stuff from 2014, the ESCPedia from 2018, and anything from 2015, on the other hand…)

Whisker
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Whisker

I am not interested in North Africa/Middle East participating in Eurovision. Israel is different to me.

Bart
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Bart

This is racism, Davve! Right there!

KESC
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KESC

Would love to see Morocco at the contest. I really enjoy Arabic or Middle Eastern Music.

Robert
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Robert

Very respectable, intelligent and wise man.. Respect him!

Jose
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Jose

People understand when something is supposed to be a joke, but not all cultures have the same taste. I don’t like Barbara Schoneberg jokes, for example.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest

i absolutely love dutch humor, it’s too bad they have to tone it down bc some might not understand it

vox
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vox

“The music takes the center spot”. In the meantime, Il volo didnt win because of the juries, and Ingrosso almost won jury vote while he was 21st in the televoting. He needs to stop ridiculing himself

Polegend Godgarina
Guest

yoo…. let’s say things as they are. inGROSSo was 23rd with 21 points!

vox
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vox

oh i am sorry. That says it all, second in juries and almost last in televoting. Music first my *ss

vox
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vox

say that to the millions who voted them

Teddie
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Teddie

Thank God il volo didn’t win!

Denis
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Denis

LOL, someone is still salty over something trivial that happened 5 years ago! It’s 2020, move on!
Sweden won, stereotypical Italian over the top entry didn’t. deal with it..

Mr Vanilla Bean
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Mr Vanilla Bean

What? Yeah, I’m sure humor never travels to him but it traveled to Austria just fine. Credit where credit is due: the Swedes were the only ones who actually had humor at Eurovision (it rubbed off a little bit on the Danes who had those Wiener jokes). Much needed humor. I swear, it’s as if Sand came right out of this humorless Eurovision fan bubble right here. In the spirit of Petra Mede: ‘I recognize a drag when I see one.’

Briekimchi
Guest
Briekimchi

Austria 2015 is the ONLY Eurovision I’ve watched where NONE of the humour landed at all. Most years, the presenters have their “moments” and in the cases of Sweden and Denmark, produce very funny shows.

Mr Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr Vanilla Bean

They were such an embarrassment. ORF in a nutshell, really. It wasn’t the language, either. They are just as bad in German. So probably the perfect hosts for Jon Ola.

KESC
Guest
KESC

So true. Although I actually liked Alice Tumler. I think she was the best out of the three.

jack
Guest
jack

2 years ago a girl doing chicken sounds won and there were juries. Please, go back to Norway, or at least learn to calculate results correctly, the belarusian jury vote fiasco will always be your responsibility.

Loin dici
Guest

Blaming it only on one man and not the entire chain? Such skills of judgement you have there.

jack
Guest
jack

he is the boss. aleggedly

Joe
Guest
Joe

Because she was great. Novelty acts don’t come third with juries and first with the televote. We can disagree on whether or not the song was any good as a matter of taste, but I’m sick of people writing off a song with actual good social messages and intent as “the chicken noise song.”

Sam
Guest
Sam

THIS. Also it seems to be the same people who write off Toy as ‘the chicken song’ who seem to think that Fuego is the pinnacle of musical culture xD

Ana
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Ana

1. She didn’t win the jury vote
2. Toy has so much more than just “doing chicken sounds”
3. Fu*k you, the juries save this show year after year

Denis
Guest
Denis

Netta wasn’t a novelty act though. If she was she wouldn’t end up that high with both groups! She is more than just chicken noise..

Bart
Guest
Bart

Sorry but Netta is not much than a chicken noise. And yes, she was and is pretty much a novelty act and she didn’t come that high in the jury. Also, after two years, what career has she to show?… She will return to being nobody or at best a passé Israeli starlet with maybe some minor outreach in jewish communities in the US and Canada and in the ESC fandom (not me included, obviously) trying to compete for attention with Suzy, Ruth and Conchita. Quite pathetic, really