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2 weeks ago

Bag Bans, Surveillance, and No-Fly Zones: These Are the Swedish Security Measures for Eurovision

Discover how Sweden is ramping up security for the Eurovision Song Contest amid rising tensions and heightened threat levels.
Malm, SE, Oct. 25 2023: Eurovision Song Contest 2024 waving on a clear day. The 2024 edition will take place in Malmoe on may. Illustrative editorial 3d illustration render — Photo by rarrarorro
Malm, SE, Oct. 25 2023: Eurovision Song Contest 2024 waving on a clear day. The 2024 edition will take place in Malmoe on may. Illustrative editorial 3d illustration render — Photo by rarrarorro

On Saturday, May 11, one of Europe's largest annual events takes place in Malmö, Sweden: the 68th Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision is a multi-day, festive, campy, and sparkly event, culminating in the Saturday Grand Finale. This year, however, it will be carried out with added security measures. But why? And what are the Swedish authorities doing to keep everyone safe and sound?

Terrorist Threat Level Four

One factor to keep in mind is that the terrorist threat level in Sweden is already relatively high. In August 2023, the Swedish Security Service raised the terrorist threat level from three to four on a five-point scale.

This followed a series of Quran burnings occurring in Sweden and the neighboring country, Denmark, throughout the summer.

On October 16, two Swedish nationals were killed during a football match in Brussels by a gunman reportedly “inspired” by extremist terrorist groups. 

National Bag Ban

In November 2023, Sweden announced it would implement a national ban on bags at major events, which is still ongoing.

The ‘bag ban’ means that, as a rule, no bags are allowed at major Swedish events, including Eurovision. Exceptions are made for people with medical reasons, journalists, and adults accompanying children who need a diaper bag.

The War in Gaza on European Shores

An additional layer of tension arises from Israel’s continued participation in the contest. 

Israel has participated in the contest since 1973, making it the first country from outside of Europe to participate, and has won four times, most recently in 2018.

However, with the ongoing war in Gaza and Israel’s song submission originally referencing the Hamas October 7 attack, many pro-Palestinian voices have called for Israel's exclusion from the contest.

Comparatively, Russia was not suspended during the 2014 annexation of Crimea but was excluded from the contest in 2022 due to its invasion of Ukraine, in a fairly unprecedented decision by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organization that operates the event.

Previously, in 2021, Belarus was disqualified from participating, as the EBU found that its submission repeatedly broke the union’s rules of songs being apolitical. 

Throughout the week, primarily pro-Palestinian protests will be held in Malmö, with the estimated number of participants exceeding 30,000.

Assistance from Neighbors

To help manage the influx of tourists, contestants, foreign officials, and protesters, Swedish police will receive reinforcements from neighboring Norway and Denmark.

Furthermore, officers will be more heavily armed than usual.

“There will be a lot of police in Malmö this time, with their usual armament, but also with heavier weapons,” said Petra Stenkula, Chief of Police in Malmö, to the Times of Israel.

Increased Surveillance

According to Swedish police, camera surveillance will increase during Eurovision, with mobile camera trailers parked outside of venues and in the main areas of the event.

“The cameras will allow us to form a very good real-time picture of what is going on in the Eurovision event areas, with the aim to gather information on strategically important spots, know how many police officers to deploy to a certain location in the event of an incident, and be able to quickly intervene if or when a crime is committed,” said Jimmy Lindin, head of the camera section in Police Region Syd.

No-Fly Zone

Lastly, a temporary ban on aircraft flying over parts of Malmö has been implemented.

From the morning of May 4 until the evening of May 12, helicopters and drones will not be allowed to fly over Malmö. Certain exceptions may be made for essential authorities such as air ambulances, police, and the Swedish Coast Guard. 

According to the national police, the no-fly zone is being implemented to maximize the police’s capability to monitor Eurovision without disruption. 

As the Eurovision Song Contest nears, the extensive security measures in Malmö highlight the complex challenges Sweden faces in hosting such a large-scale event amidst high threat levels and political tensions.


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