Eurovision’s host city vows tight security measures amid Israeli participation

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The Swedish Eurovision host city Malmo on Wednesday promised heightened security for this year’s song contest, which faces protests over Israel’s participation during the war in Gaza.

Authorities vowed “visible” measures including police with submachine guns and reinforcements from Denmark and Norway around the event, ending with the final on May 11.

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Normally associated with rhinestones and kitsch, this year the competition has become a more controversial affair as critics have called for Israel to be banned from competing, with the war in Gaza entering its seventh month.

Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo is home to over 360,000 inhabitants spanning 186 nationalities, and a large part of the country’s population of Palestinian origin.

At least half a dozen applications have been filed for demonstration permits to protest the Israeli presence at the competition, which is organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) together with Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT.

City authorities say the situation is under control.

“For the various events linked to Eurovision, security measures will be clearly visible,” the city’s security director, Per-Erik Ebbestahl, told a press conference.

Security checks will be stepped up, in particular for access to the various sites, where bags will mostly be prohibited, he said.

The police presence will also be strengthened, with reinforcements coming from Norway and Denmark, and officers will be more heavily armed than normal.

“There will be a lot of police in Malmo this time, with their usual armament, but also with heavier weapons” including submachine guns, said Petra Stenkula, chief of Malmo police.

“We are not used to seeing them in Sweden and Malmo,” Stenkula said.

The executive producer of the event for SVT, Ebba Adielsson, told AFP the security plan was “extremely stable.”

“Now what scares me the most is that people are too afraid” to participate in the event, she continued.

More than 100,000 visitors are expected to come to Malmo in the week leading up to the event.

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