Sweden prepares for Eurovision amidst fears of protests, cyberattacks and unrest

Sweden prepares for Eurovision amidst fears of protests, cyberattacks and unrest
Sweden prepares for Eurovision amidst fears of protests, cyberattacks and unrest Copyright Johan Nilsson/AP
Copyright Johan Nilsson/AP
By David Mouriquand
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Security preparations for this year’s Eurovision come as Sweden is considered by police to be a “priority target” for Islamist terrorist groups. Add concerns over planned protests regarding Israel's involvement, cyberattacks and Sweden's NATO membership, and 2024's contest seems overcast by fear.


It’s May, and Europeans are bracing themselves for two major cultural events: the Eurovision Song Contest and the Cannes Film Festival.

There’s time to delve into the latter (stay tuned to the good Euronews Culture parish for our full Cannes preview), but first comes the annual spectacle and sound of Eurovision.

Taking place this year in Malmö, Sweden, the 68th annual competition will see acts from 37 countries vie for the continent’s pop musical crown. But while usually a feelgood extravaganza full of glitter that strives to banish international strife, this year’s edition is proving to be one of the most controversial.

While the main question should be whether ABBA will make an appearance, considering this year marks the 50th anniversary of the band’s victory in the 1974 contest with 'Waterloo', the query on everyone’s minds has become: What protests will overshadow the competition?

This year’s Eurovision has already been rocked by controversy over Israel’s participation, which has led many to boycott the event and sparked calls for Israel to be excluded. Many have also called on the artists themselves to speak out against Israel’s involvement.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the contest, has resisted calls for Israel to be excluded, but did order the country to change the lyrics of its competing song, originally titled 'October Rain', an apparent reference to Hamas’ cross-border Oct. 7 attack. Renamed 'Hurricane', the power ballad will be performed by 20-year-old singer Eden Golan.

Planned protests loom large

Swedish police have stated that the security protocols will be "rigorous" for the upcoming contest, citing demonstrations that could lead to unrest and a heightened threat of terrorism.

“The security is going to be rigorous,” Petra Stenkula, head of police area in Malmö, said according to Swedish broadcaster TV4. These heightened security preparations come as Sweden is considered by police to be a “priority target” for Islamist terrorist groups.

Pro-Palestinian activists who want Israel out of Eurovision have announced large rallies in downtown Malmö, several kilometers from the Malmö Arena contest venue. The public organization “Palestinian Group” in Malmö has been clear about its intention to hold demonstrations in which tens of thousands of people will participate.

Last year, Sweden heightened its terror threat level one notch to “high,” the fourth of five levels, for the first time since 2016 amid a deteriorating security situation following recent burnings of the Quran that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

Police said that an application to stage a demonstration in Malmö to burn a copy of the Quran before the song contest had been handed in.

There is no law in Sweden specifically prohibiting the burning or desecration of religious texts, and Sweden doesn’t have any blasphemy laws.

Volunteer dropouts as NATO membership and cyberattacks raise concerns

EBU brands Eurovision a non-political event and insists that the contest is between public service broadcasters, not governments. However, it banned Russian in 2022 from Eurovision after several European public broadcasters called for the country to be expelled following its invasion of Ukraine.

This has led many to highlight the hypocrisy and has further fuelled a sense of anger, which can be seen on protest banners in central Malmö, which replicate Eurovision’s posters – only with the word 'Eurovision' replaced by 'genocide'.

Visitors from 89 countries expected in Malmö will witness these banners, as well as face heightened security checks, like passing through airport-like checks when entering venues around the city.

Organisers have also mentioned that the risk of protests escalating into violence is heightened by the increased tensions with Russia after Sweden's NATO membership.

Sweden joined NATO in March, two years after Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced it to rethink its national security policy. Russia has threatened to take unspecified "political and military-technical counter-measures" in response.

Faced with these increased security measures, there have been reports that ten percent of the selected 600 volunteers for the event have dropped out, citing “personal reasons” and fears regarding “security concerns”.


Some fears might be assuaged by the recently announced initiative from Swedish police to use drones to provide further security – on top of ground-based video cameras.

“Video surveillance is one of the many tools that the police use to ensure security and prevent crime during the Eurovision Song Contest,” reads a report by the Swedish Police Department.

Additionally, police have compiled a 23-page special report on possible threats, which also include cyberattacks, DoS attacks, and interception of television broadcasts.

Quite the programme, as Malmö and EBU hope that Eurovision’s motto of “United by music” be upheld.

The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals are on Tuesday 7 and Thursday 9 May before the Grand Final on Saturday 11 May.


Additional sources • TV4, AP

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