During our time at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, we had the opportunity to speak with Iris Mazel, the Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Expo Tel Aviv. We spoke about the preparations for the contest, the challenges in hosting such an event and what makes her proud about the organisation of the contest.
Hi Iris, thanks for talking to us today. Could you give us a brief introduction to yourself and what you do here in Expo Tel Aviv?
First of all, welcome to Israel! My name is Iris Mazel and I’m the Chief Marketing Office here at Expo Tel Aviv, the venue of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. Expo Tel Aviv is a convention centre and what’s amazing is that we have never had an event of this scope before. We do large events here, for example we had alt-J performing where we are sitting now (the lawn outside Pavilion 11) but we have never had an event that is being broadcast to over 200 million people around the world. It’s a first for us! We have been preparing for 54 days already, just for the stage. We have eight pavilions here and the EBU took seven of them for the contest. The shows take place in Pavilion 2, the Green Room and Delegation Bubble is in Pavilion 1, the Press Centre is in Pavilion 11, the interview rooms are in Pavilion 12 and the Press Conference Rooms are in Pavilion 13.
We have been preparing for this event for over seven months. We competed against Jerusalem, Haifa and Eilat and another venue in Tel Aviv to host the show. When we heard on the news that we won the hosting rights, everyone was jumping around in the offices! I think we didn’t realise at the time what it meant to host and prepare for Eurovision. At the moment, there are over 4,000 people working to prepare for the shows alongside the press and the delegations. It’s an amazing experience not just for the delegations and the press but also for all of the employees here.
What made you decide to put in a bid for Expo Tel Aviv to host Eurovision 2019?
It was obvious that Eurovision had to be in Expo Tel Aviv and that we were going to fight for it! We had three visits from Jon Ola Sand and a team from the EBU. We had to give a very specific presentation about the venue, its technical capabilities, the compound and whether it was good enough to hold everything that they needed. We had to install an extra tent to hold all of Madonna’s stage things once we learned that she was coming. This is what we love to do at Expo Tel Aviv. We hold a lot of conventions and seminars here and this is the essence of the place. We were ready to welcome Eurovision and couldn’t wait to start working on it. I hope that on Sunday morning at 3.00 after the final, everyone will say “Wow, that was a great venue!”
What has been the biggest challenge in hosting this event?
I think there were a few major challenges for us. The first was co-existing with all the different teams for such a long period of time. Usually, events here last two to three days at the most. For Eurovision, we had to prepare for almost two months, which we are not used to. We had to see what Eurovision needed and how we could adapt to fit their needs and the needs of teams from abroad. The second challenge was the technical capacities regarding the Internet. A lot of people have come with their mobile phones and other devices and want to inform the rest of the world about what is happening here. We needed to make sure that we had good enough Wi-Fi infrastructure to deal with a large amount of people working and attending the event.
Another challenge was the environmental aspect. Everything in the Expo is built with the environment in mind. Usually you would see a lot of animals here but they have all gone over to Yarkon Park across the road because they are scared of the larger amount of people here. We made an agreement long ago that this venue would be as green as possible. The water from the air conditioning in Pavilion 2 is used to water the lawns. We separate all the rubbish. All the lights in the venue are LED lights and we can control each one of them separately so that we don’t have to light everything immediately, which saves money and energy. The catering company that we work with here use perishable bamboo plates and anyone who buys a beer in Pavilion 2 can buy a reusable cup. We also have very good transport links to the venue. People can come by bike, scooter, bus or train and it’s only a 30 minute walk from the city centre. Even if you look around you with the sun shining, the nice weather and all the trees; it’s a different vibe to a lot of other Eurovisions, from what I’ve heard.
What thing in the organisation of the contest has made you the most proud and what impression do you hope visitors will have of the Expo, Tel Aviv and possibly Israel as a whole?
My biggest hope is that people who have come here see how welcoming we are here in Tel Aviv and Israel. We want people to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, to eat hummus and pitta, to experience the Middle Eastern atmosphere. We want people to see Israel in a different light than what they may have seen before. For a lot of the press here who are in Israel for the very first time, they came for music and they are talking about fashion and different cultures and you see that a lot is going on here. I think it’s great for tourism and to show the many different sides of Israel to the world.
My proudest moment was in March, when the 41 Heads of Delegation visited the venue. It was the first time that they had visited the venue. We quickly realised that each delegation came from different countries and brought with them different cultures. The most important thing for us was to make sure that everyone felt comfortable and that everything was clear and understandable. We made sure that everything was available in English alongside Hebrew and Arabic. We wanted everyone to feel at home and in the Delegation Bubble, we have comfy chairs and ping pong and stuff like that to make all the delegations feel good. It was important for the delegations to feel welcome and for the technical team to understand that there is a professional team here that can assist them if needs be because most of the equipment here was brought from abroad in 250 trucks. If I can sit here and look around at all the different things going on around here, I can say that we did well. Not just Expo Tel Aviv but Tel Aviv and Israel as a whole.
Eurovoix would like to thank Iris for her time and to Tali Helmer for helping us set up this interview.