Sweden prepares to host Eurovision Song Contest in shadow of Gaza struggle | EUROtoday

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Glitter and rhinestones or pro-Palestinian demonstrations and slogans? The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest opens within the southern Swedish metropolis of Malmo on Tuesday overshadowed by the struggle in Gaza.

Looming over the festivities is Israel’s participation within the virtually 70-year-old contest, which this 12 months brings collectively 37 international locations, concluding with the ultimate on May 11.

Malmo resident Anders Puschel instructed AFP that he will likely be participating in an illustration on May 9, the identical day Israel will likely be competing within the second semi-final.

“During the ongoing war, Israel’s participation should be banned in the same way they banned Russia,” Puschel mentioned.

In 2022, Russian broadcasters had been excluded from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) — which oversees the competitors — within the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The message was, we don’t like people who are not living up to democratic standards,” anthropologist and Eurovision specialist Lisanne Wilken mentioned.

Since the start of the 12 months, a number of petitions have demanded Israel’s exclusion.

Direct threats have additionally been made towards the singer representing Israel, Eden Golan, which the EBU swiftly condemned.

Israel's 20-year-old Eurovision contestant Eden Golan has been targeted by threats
Israel’s 20-year-old Eurovision contestant Eden Golan has been focused by threats. © Gil Cohen-Magen, AFP

“While we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest,” the organisation mentioned.

Inside the Malmo Arena, the organiser has banned all flags aside from these of the collaborating international locations — except the Pride rainbow flag — a long-standing rule, in line with the EBU.

“I’m sure someone will be able to smuggle in a Palestinian flag and wave it, but whether it will been seen on TV is more uncertain,” Puschel mentioned.

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Pro-Palestinian rallies

Thousands are anticipated to attend pro-Palestinian rallies all through the week within the metropolis, which is embellished with multicoloured flags.

“I would never have thought we would become such a political event on the world stage,” mentioned Karin Karlsson, managing director of the Eurovision occasion for town of Malmo.

With simply over 360,000 inhabitants — and 186 nationalities — “the whole world lives in Malmo and all the conflicts come together in a very small area, which creates friction,” Andreas Onnerfors, professor of the historical past of concepts and a Eurovision specialist, instructed AFP.

The majority of Sweden’s inhabitants of Palestinian origin additionally lives within the port metropolis, which is the Scandinavian nation’s third largest and is making ready to welcome some 100,000 guests.

Security is a serious concern, particularly as Sweden raised its terror alert degree final 12 months following a sequence of protests involving desecrations of the Koran.

Police have boosted security at the Malmo Arena
Police have boosted safety on the Malmo Arena. © Johan Nilsson, TT News Agency/ AFP

Security checks have been stepped up, particularly for entry to the assorted websites, the place luggage will principally be prohibited.

Police presence has additionally been strengthened, with reinforcements coming from Norway and Denmark, and officers will likely be extra closely armed than regular through the week.

“Everything feels very safe,” mentioned Ebba Adielsson, government producer of the occasion for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, who’s organising the occasion along with the EBU.

“Police are very, very active and have dedicated a lot of resources” to securing the occasion, Adielsson continued.

Demonstrations will likely be tightly managed and, as a precaution, jail cells have been emptied and detainees despatched elsewhere in Sweden to make room in case of a surge in arrests.

ABBA won the song contest 50 years ago - now their costumes are on display in Malmo
ABBA received the tune contest 50 years in the past – now their costumes are on show in Malmo. © Johan Nilsson, TT News Agency/AFP

“Eurovision, you can see it around town and there is a lot of talk. Unfortunately the focus has ended up on other things than the actual music competition and the joy,” ABBA fan Anders Persson lamented.

This 12 months’s competitors marks the fiftieth anniversary of the long-lasting Swedish pop group’s worldwide breakthrough after they received Eurovision with the tune “Waterloo”.

In an indication of the controversy surrounding the competitors, a number of Swedish artists who had been due to participate within the festivities surrounding the occasion have withdrawn.

A extra sombre affair

The festivities will nonetheless go forward, although in a calmer method.

“Malmo is a party city… the saddest thing is that there may be fewer Malmo residents taking part,” Karlsson mentioned.

The EBU has adopted the slogan “United by Music,” borrowed from the 2023 version, which was organised within the UK because the war-stricken 2022 winner Ukraine was unable to host it.

“Liverpool last year was a huge party, this was a celebration thrown in Putin’s face,” Wilken mentioned, referring to the Russian president who invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Organisers say Malmo is a 'party city'
Organisers say Malmo is a ‘get together metropolis’. © Johan Nilsson, TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP

“This year it really is more difficult for Sweden to position itself,” she continued, explaining that the occasion has been “marked” by the state of affairs in Gaza.

Another native man, Yair Elsner, can also be organising a rally on May 9, however to rejoice the Israeli participation.

“We will be there with Swedish flags and Israeli flags,” he instructed AFP, including they purpose to point out “something positive.”

A member of Malmo’s small Jewish neighborhood, Elsner mentioned he had not observed any change in attitudes in direction of him because the begin of the struggle, however conceded there was a widespread feeling of “insecurity”.