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Eurovision 2024: Added security measures as organisers brace for anti-Israel rallies

From Eric Saade to Ireland’s Bambie Thug, on stage protests have taken place as authorities in Swedish city of Malmö are on full alert, with the second semi-final taking place today.


Swedish police have assured that fans need not be concerned about safety at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, despite heightened tensions due to the conflict in Gaza.

However, the competition continues to be overshadowed by protests against Israel’s participation due to the ongoing war.

Authorities in Malmö are on full alert, as the second semi-final takes place today and an influx of some 100,000 Eurovision fans is expected, along with tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Demonstrations are planned today and Saturday against the Israel-Hamas war.

Palestinian flags have been banned inside the Malmö Arena venue, as former Swedish Eurovision contestant Eric Saade, whose father is of Palestinian origin, wore a traditional Middle Eastern keffiyeh scarf during the opening performance. The scarf has become an international symbol of pro-Palestinian sentiment.

A spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has stated: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a live TV show. All performers are made aware of the rules of the contest, and we regret that Eric Saade chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event.”

This was not the only on stage controversy to take place.

Bambie Thug, who represents Ireland and qualified for the grand final on Saturday, has criticised organisers for asking them to alter a pro-Palestinian message before their performance in the first semi-final.

The artist said during a news conference that they had been forced to change writing painted on their body ahead of the semi-final performance. The writing, translated from the Medieval alphabet Ogham, read: “Ceasefire and freedom”.

“It was very important for me because I’m pro justice and pro peace,” they said. “Unfortunately, I had to change those messages today to ‘crown the witch’ only (which was an) order from the EBU.”

A spokesperson for the EBU said: “The writing seen on Bambie Thug’s body during dress rehearsals contravened contest rules that are designed to protect the non-political nature of the event. After discussions with the Irish delegation, they agreed to change the text for the live show.”

Then there’s Israel’s representative, 20-year-old Eden Golan, who has reportedly been confined to her hotel room while she is not performing, due to heightened security concerns.

She will make her debut during today’s second semi-final, and was reportedly met with both boos and cheers during a dress rehearsal.

In a statement, Golan said: “I am proud to represent my country, particularly this year. I am receiving support and love and I am determined to give my best performance tomorrow in the semifinal and nothing will deter me from that goal!”

Ahead of Golan’s performance, Israel’s Foreign Ministry posted to X: “We are incredibly proud of Eden Golan who is representing our country at Eurovision. She is not only an exceptional performer, but a symbol of strength and resilience. We love you Eden and our entire country is cheering you on.”

Last week, Israel raised its travel warning to the southern Swedish city, citing “a well-founded fear” that terrorists would target Israelis attending the competition. Sweden had already been on a terror level of four out of five, and the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency has led a delegation of officials from the VIP protection department to Malmö to coordinate security arrangements. 

The Eurovision Song Contest second semi-finals are on Thursday 9 May before the Grand Final on Saturday 11 May.

Additional sources • The Times of Israel

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