Eurovision chief says Russia ban stands for ‘ultimate values of democracy’

Speaking to Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus on Radio 4, Martin Österdahl says contest is about ‘uniting through music’

The Eurovision chief has said Russia’s ongoing ban from the international song contest has been hard but the event should stand for “the basic and ultimate values of democracy”.

Russia was banned from competing in the Eurovision song contest in 2022 after its invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s national broadcasters subsequently suspended their memberships of the European Broadcasting Union, which organises the show, preventing them from taking part in future contests.

Speaking to Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, for which the Swedish songwriter was acting as guest editor, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, Martin Österdahl, was asked if the decision to exclude Russia had been hard to make.

He said: “It was, and it still is. How Europe feels very much affects the contest.

“It is also that when you look back in time, you see that the Eurovision song contest is like a logbook of what has happened in Europe, what the trends have been in Europe.

“But, also, what is the kind of mood and sentiment of Europe, and what is the social context of Europe at the time. When we say we are not political, what we always should stand up for are the basic and ultimate values of democracy. Everyone is right to be who they are.”

He added: “This will be a Eurovision song contest that really shows the values that we talk about – solidarity, reaching out, uniting through music.”

Ukraine won the 2022 contest with the song Stefania, performed by Kalush Orchestra. The UK, which came second, will host the contest in 2023 in Liverpool because of the war in Ukraine.

In its application, Liverpool had to demonstrate how it would reflect Ukrainian culture, music and communities if it were to host on behalf of Ukraine.

Ulvaeus said he may attend the contest in Liverpool as he wants to see the Cavern Club where his idols, the Beatles, played.

He said: “My idols [over] all the idols, the Beatles, come from there, which is why I am thinking maybe I should go to see the finals. And I have never been to Liverpool. To see the Cavern where the Beatles appeared. They were the reason why Benny Andersson and I started writing music.

“Before the Beatles, songwriters were kind of anonymous. But suddenly there were these guys who were not only the artist but they wrote their own songs.”

Österdahl said: “I will try my very best. You are always welcome.”


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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