Swedish Eurovision host city braces for possible protests

Swedish city Malmo, host of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in May, expects guests from 80 countries for the event and is also bracing for possible unrest on its sidelines, city officials said on Thursday.

The annual music competition, the world’s biggest of its kind, bills itself as a nonpolitical event.

However, the global political backdrop often weighs, and this year the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, has resisted calls for Israel to be excluded due to its offensive in Gaza.

“There is currently, according to the information we have from our partners, no direct threat to Eurovision,” Malmo Safety Director Per-Erik Ebbestahl told a news conference. “Given the situation, things could change.”

Cultural events across Europe have in recent months been affected by protests and boycotts over the war in Gaza.

Israel this month tweaked its Eurovision submission to exclude lyrics that appeared to refer to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, after organizers said they would disqualify contestants who did not maintain the non-political spirit of the event.

Malmo Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh said that wile many would visit the city for the competition and related festivities, many would also want to stage protests and express political opinions in connection with the event.

“We stand behind the right of all people to express their democratic views. Then there is also always a risk that someone will use the attention for less peaceful purposes or to disrupt and fight,” she told the news conference.

“I have great confidence in the police’s ability to work for a safe city even when so many different people come to visit,” she added.

The contest is due to take place May 7-11.

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