Protests and terror threat mean tight security at Eurovision Song Contest

17 April 2024, 15:04

Malmo Arena
MALMO, SWEDEN – MAY 13: View of the Arena in Malmo where the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest will be hosted on May 18, 2012. Picture: PA

Police said demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists could lead to unrest, and Sweden also faces a heightened threat of terrorism.

Security will be tight during next month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo in southern Sweden, police said on Wednesday, citing demonstrations that could lead to unrest and a heightened threat of terrorism.

“The security is going to be rigorous,” said city police chief Petra Stenkula, according to Swedish broadcaster TV4.

Pro-Palestinian activists who want Israel out of the Eurovision Song Contest have announced plans for large rallies in central Malmo, several miles from the Malmo Arena contest venue.

Last year Sweden raised its terror threat level one notch to “high”, the fourth of five levels, for the first time since 2016 amid a deteriorating security situation following recent burnings of the Koran that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

Malmo has previously hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo 1992 and 2013 (Antony McAulay/Alamy/PA)

Police said on Wednesday that an application to stage a demonstration in Malmo to burn a copy of the Koran before the song contest had been handed in.

There is no law in Sweden specifically prohibiting the burning or desecration of religious texts. Like many Western countries, Sweden does not have any blasphemy laws.

“Freedom of expression is strong in Sweden,” Ms Stenkula said, according to the Malmo newspaper, Sydsvenska. “Now we first have to assess the application that has been received, then we have to see if it gets permission.”

She told a press conference that Swedish police will get reinforcements from across the country as well as from Norway and Denmark. She did not provide details.

“We have terror threat level four, so we cannot empty the whole of Sweden of police officers” during the song contest, she added.

The live televised final is scheduled for May 11, with semi-finals on May 7 and May 9.

Pro-Palestinian activists are planning two large demonstrations to protest at Israel’s participation in Eurovision, as the conflict in the Middle East threatens to overshadow the pop music festival.

Activists and some musicians have urged the European Broadcasting Union, the event organiser, to drop Israel from the event over its conduct of the war against Hamas in Gaza, triggered by the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel.

Last week, EBU deputy director-general Jean Philip De Tender said the organisation understands “the depth of feeling and the strong opinions” that this year’s Eurovision has provoked, but “firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest”.

Review of the Year 2023
Loreen won the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool (Aaron Chown/PA)

Launched in 1956 to foster unity after the Second World War, Eurovision has become a camp, feel-good celebration of pop music with an audience of hundreds of millions around the world. It has grown from seven countries to almost 40, including non-European nations such as Israel and Australia.

Organisers strive to keep politics out of the contest, not always successfully. Russia has been banned since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden won last year’s contest in Liverpool, England, with the power ballad Tattoo by singer Loreen. The host country is usually the winner of the previous year’s event.

Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, hosted Eurovision in 1992 and 2013.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft of Singapore Airlines parked after the SQ321 London-Singapore flight that encountered severe turbulence, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, near Bangkok, Thailand

Rapid changes in gravitational force ‘led to 178ft altitude drop on plane’

Israel Palestinians

Israeli military says it has seized strategic corridor along Gaza-Egypt border

Brazil Floods

Brazil’s president withdraws ambassador to Israel

Trump Hush Money

Jury in Trump’s hush money case begin deliberations

Moldova U.S. Blinken

US pledges £106m in aid to Moldova to counter Russian influence

A volcano spews lava in Grindavik, Iceland

Volcano in Iceland erupts, triggering evacuation of Blue Lagoon geothermal spa

"Today there was a horrible incident where a person ended up in an airplane engine," a spokesperson said

Person killed after falling into passenger plane engine at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport

Explosion Ohio

Building explosion kills bank employee and injures seven in Ohio

Balloons with rubbish believed to have been sent by North Korea hang on electric wires as South Korean army soldiers stand guard in Muju, South Korea

North Korea flies balloons carrying rubbish over the South

North Korea has been sending balloons of rubbish over the South

North Korea dumps 260 balloons filled with 'excrement' and rubbish on South

EU flags

Police search offices and residence of employee of European Parliament

A Phillips 66 Conoco fuel service station (Alamy/PA)

ConocoPhillips buying Marathon Oil in deal valued at 22.5 billion dollars

A technology expert claims to have found the wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Expert claims to have found Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 wreckage on Google Maps

Spain Arab Nations

Palestinian PM visits Madrid after Spain recognises Palestinian state

Israeli soldiers drive an APC near the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel

Three soldiers killed in Rafah, says Israeli military

Robert De Niro speaks to reporters in support of President Joe Biden across the street from former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York

Biden campaign sends De Niro to Trump trial to put focus on 2021 Capitol attack