Sweden: Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in a geopolitically-unstable time!

Sweden is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in a geopolitically-unstable time.

In Finland, more than 1300 people from the music industry have signed a petition calling for Finland to boycott the contest in Malmö if Israel participates. Similar demands have been made in Iceland in the past.

And recently, demonstrators gathered outside the NRK headquarters in Oslo, demanding the exclusion of Israel from Eurovision because of the war in Gaza.

Ben Robertson, who covers Eurovision for ESCInsight, comments on the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Malmö this May that it could be the most politically sensitive in Eurovision‘s history:

“It will be very tough to organise the Eurovision Song Contest this year. It demands a lot from Malmö and SVT. It’s not just about Israel. It’s about Sweden too, about the high terrorist threat.”

Ben also notes that this will be another season of Eurovision in the shadow of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Ukraine is participating in this year’s competition. So does Armenia, which came into focus last autumn due to the conflict with Azerbaijan and also says he will neither be surprised if artists and songwriters choose to address political issues this year nor will he be surprised if fans demand that artists who travel to Malmö take a stand in the Israel Hamas conflict.

The Eurovision Song Contest is organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The EBU‘s members are public service broadcasters in various countries, especially in Europe. But countries such as Israel, Morocco and Lebanon are also members of the EBU.

In recent years, two countries have been excluded from the EBU and banned from the Eurovision Song Contest. Belarus was expelled because the country violated the rules of the competition and refused to change a song lyric with too political a message. Russia was expelled after the attack on Ukraine, reflecting a concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry would bring the competition into disrepute.

Now voices are being raised that Israel should also be expelled. But Paul Jordan, who comments on Eurovision for British media, believes Israel will participate this year. He says the situation is different than when Russia was excluded.

“When Russia was excluded, it had been banned from other international events. The EBU watched the World Cup and others who didn’t want Russia there, and then it would have looked very strange if Russia had participated in the Eurovision Song Contest.”

The idea behind Eurovision is that countries should be able to put aside conflicts and bad relations for one night. In the UK, Olly Alexander, who will represent the country in Malmö, has made headlines with his criticism of Israel.

Paul says that there is a risk that Israel, even if it is not excluded, feels that it is not welcome to participate in Malmö.

“If the war is still going on, and we see these horrific images from Gaza, it can also be perceived as distasteful to participate in Eurovision while people are dying.”

At the same time, Eurovision is an important platform for Israel, which has participated in the contest for 45 years.

Karin Karlsson is the project manager for the Eurovision Song Contest, employed by the City of Malmö. She had the same role in 2013.

She notes that many things are different today. The target group of the competition has become younger. Social media plays a very different role than in 2013. The Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t just mean televised stage performances at Malmö Arena. There will also be a week’s festival in different places in the city. At the same time, Sweden has a high terrorist threat. Karin comments on that:

“And it’s much more complicated in terms of security, this year. We work with safety all the time, every day.”

Source: Svenska Dagbladet

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