Mr Svante Stockselius is one of the most popular Swedes in Europe. He appears once a year, twice if you watch both contests, to tell us that “we are ready for the results”. After 7 years in the job, Svante Stockselius has resigned from his role as Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest following the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2010. So why am I writing this editorial?
Svante has revolutionised the Eurovision Song Contest, which is exactly what he was employed to do. After working on the 2000 edition of the contest, held in Stockholm, he was also asked to help the following year in Tallinn… the rest, as they say, is history. Svante was the architect for a major update of the Swedish selection to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002. He installed four semifinals, and a second chance round (Andra chansen) to precede the final, a system that is still in place today. After this he was employed by TV4 and then in 2003, he was appointed as the Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, and also the Junior Eurovision Song Contest which debuted later that year. Svante was also to become Head of Song Contests at the European Broadcasting Union. This role is the one that has changed the face of Eurovision for the better.
How many countries participated in Eurovision in the first 46 years, before Svante took over? 37, an average of 0.8 per year. How many from 2003 to 2010, when Svante was in charge? 14, an average of 2 every year. All 14 of these new countries were able to join the competition due to a revamp of Eurovision by Svante. A semifinal was introduced as the qualifying round to take place on Wednesday in Eurovision Week. This allowed up to 40 countries to take part. The countries which finished in the top ten the previous year, plus the Big 4 were automatically qualified to the final. The rest of the countries were to enter in the semifinal. Problems arose when the total number of competitors in 2007 rose above this number to 42. This meant 28 countries participated in the semifinal. Many complaints were made about the system being unfair and the Western bloc countries were being outvoted by the East, etc. Svante came up with a solution. Two semifinals, on the Tuesday and Thursday of Eurovision Week and no automatic qualifiers to the Final other than the Big 4. In 2008, the number of entries rose again, to 43, and two semifinals of 19. The top 9 in each semifinal qualified, plus the top song (that had not already qualified) from the jury vote. Making 25 countries progress to the final. After more complaints and threatened withdrawals from the contest due to bloc and neighbourly voting, Svante moved fast to make more changes. Jury voting was to return to Eurovision with a 50/50 split; this was only to occur in the final, the semifinal was to be unchanged. After seeing a dramatic improvement in results for the Big 4, notably the United Kingdom and France, we also saw a Western European country win for the first time since 2002. Not only did Norway win, but Norway won with a landslide victory thanks to the televote/jury voting system. 2010 saw one change: the success of the 50/50 split in the final allowed it to be implemented as the semifinal voting system also.
However, Svante’s final hurrah occurred yesterday. A day that Eurovision fans worldwide will not forget. Something that Svante needs credit for.
Throughout his time as Head of the Song Contests, he has strived to allow new countries to enter but has also worked to bring back entrants of the past. Today, Svante completed a feat that many believed wasn’t possible. Italy are back. Will they bring San Marino with them, which would guarantee Italy a start of 12 points in the Final? Only time will tell…
Svante, you are a genius.