Thursday, March 05, 2009

Israeli-Swedish Relations and Tennis in Malmö

Israel and Sweden are set to meet in a Davis Cup tennis match here in Sweden. Unfortunately, they are set to meet in front of no one. The match has been closed to all spectators. Because of fears of violence. Because it is Israel. And because it is taking place in Malmö.

A while back Stockholm made an attempt to get the match played here. It was short notice. Very short notice. They decided it wasn’t possible logistically so the match was not moved. It will be played in Malmö. In an empty arena. Which is a damn shame. Even schools in the area have been closed tomorrow. The city of Malmö is preparing for violence.

But the story does not end there. The match will obviously be a meeting place for Malmö's police. Between 500 and 1000 of Sweden’s finest are expected to be on hand. Security will be high. But the police want some protection as well. Understandably.

Over 10,000 people are expected to protest. Most of them peacefully. But there is concern that a small contingent will be there to cause trouble. Which is what made a pile of stones from some road work of particular concern. The commander of police demanded that the stones be removed, promising that if they were not “då kommer det inte att finnas en enda polis på plats.” There won’t be a single police officer on hand (or “on the scene” as puts it). The police were not joking. And Malmö seemed to agree. The stones were to be removed earlier this afternoon.

It’s a shame that athletes are dragged into this sort of thing. Being held responsible for their government. Not being able to perform in front of a crowd for fear of violence. Or not being allowed to perform at all.

It’s interesting seeing the difference in nationalities between Sweden and the United States. The difference between a Swede and an American. Andy Roddick, an American tennis player, withdrew from a tournament to protest the fact that an Israeli was banned from competing. It is very easy to see where each nation’s loyalties lie. Or at least the loyalties of their voting public.

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  1. I'm moving back to Sweden after 8 years in Canada and it's this kind of thing that makes me dread it. Whenever I say anything positive about Israel in Sweden the response is usually "Är du jude eller?" That used to leave me stumped, but I have a reply that I picked up from a brilliant tour guide of the Jewish quarter in Prague: "Where I come from, it's not kosher to ask about someone's religion."

  2. yeah, its somewhat of a frightening attitude actually.

    but I love your response to questions like that.

  3. Damn, did they forget to forbid the protesters to bring their own stones with them, LOL!

  4. fell through the cracks it seems...