Is Eurovision Song Contest too political?

Eurovision previous contestants

Loreen and other Eurovisionaries. Credit: Sarah Louise Bennett_EBU_0181

Sweden is taking securtity measures very seriously as the host of this year’s Eurovision contest from May 5 to 1.

Malmö’s role as host of the Eurovision Song Contest follows Swedish singer Loreen’s victory last year.

Ulf Nilsson, head of security in Malmö, said “We have the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the war in Ukraine which has affected Sweden, a bigger risk of hybrid warfare, there are cyberattacks”.

Police say they are prepared in multicultural Malmö, a city with 350,000 residents from 186 countries.

Multicultural Sweden

Sweden has an official multicultural policy, with a humanitarian approach, generous immigration policy and strong commitment to integration. In the 2000s, many Palestinians from Gaza settled in Northern Europe, later followed by an influx of Palestinians from Syria.

Sweden does not keep statistics on ethnicity but on country of origin, so the exact numebrs are not clear. However, a large proportion of Sweden’s Palestinian community lives in Malmö, and the conflict between Israeli and Hamas has added an extra dimension to preparations for the event.

According to Nils Norling, spokesman for the police force, “A couple of months before the event we had already received requests to hold demonstrations both in support of Israel’s participation in Eurovision and against it”.

Anti-Israel demonstrations

The event organisers, the Swedish public broadcaster SVT and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), also say they are well prepared.

“We are absolutely prepared for the fact that there will be demonstrations outside the arena so we are planning for that, and also inside the arena of course.”

There was a modest Swedish petition “No Eurovision in Malmö if Israel Participates”, as well as other objections from European countries due to the war in Gaza, but the EBU ruled that Israel can take part.

Russia excluded

Russia has been excluded due to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Twenty-year-old Eden Golan will represent Israel. The EBU obliged her to change to the lyrics of her song “October Rain”, as it was deemed too political, containing a veiled reference to the victims of the October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel.

Israel has been competing in the Eurovision since 1973, the first non-European country to do so. It has won the competition four times.

Since it will be the first time that Israel will be on an international stage since the Gaza war, it is likely that the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) movement will take the opportunity to stage protests.

Karin Karlsson of Malmö city council is not too concerned about protests.

“This is Sweden and we’re in Malmö. We want to show that you can have different opinions but you express them peacefully.”

During the past decade, Eurovision has been increasing in popularity as people turn to the song contest for relief from the horrors of global conflict and to experience an uplifting glimmer of hope for European and global unity. Around 100,000 visitors are expected this year from 80 countries.

Given that the contest arose out of the will to unite Europen countries in the wake of two devastating World Wars, the very idea of nations competing in an international competition is political.

Eurovision contestants

Norwegian twins duo Marcus and Martinus are representing their neighbouring scandanavian country Sweden with their song Unforgettable. The boys rose to fame as one of Scandinavia’s biggest pop sensations after winning Norway’s ‘Junior MGP’ in 2012. With over 1.5 billion streams, the duo has gained a massive following and has had multiple hit singles in Sweden and Finland.

Nebulossa won Spain’s national selection show at the Benidorm Fest and will be representing Spain in Malmö with their song Zorra. The theme and lyrics of the song have been hotly debated, many people interpreting them as a feminist revindication of independent women, others decrying the title and chorus of the song, which literally translates as “vixen” but also means loose woman.

In 2022, Cuban-Spanish singer Chanel Terrero performed SloMo wearing a stylised and somewhat revealing traje de luces (“suit of lights”) bullfighter costume. She asserted that the song was about female “empowerment, to feel comfortable with your body”.

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Annie christmas in the Bay of Palma
Written by

Annette Christmas

Annie Christmas loves language and communication. A long-time resident of Mallorca, she enjoys an outdoor life of cycling, horse riding and mountain walking, as well as the wealth of concerts and cultural events on the island. She also plays fiddle in a traditional Mallorcan dance troupe.