Wow, it’s another sad story for tennis, as Swedish city council members have deemed it too dangerous to allow fans into the upcoming tie between Sweden and Israel March 6 – 8th. This decision comes after the local police deemed it safe enough to let the public in! What the heck?
This is unacceptable. Davis Cup is all about national pride in competition and cross-cultural fan participation. If a host nation can’t provide necessary security then they shouldn’t be the host nation. I think the city council is reacting more to public pressure than a justifiably uncontrollable threat. This is SHAMEFUL! Above all, I feel for the players, who are representing their respective countries and deserve to play in front of their fans. What a sad tie this is going to be.
Check out this article from Sweden’s The Local:
No fans allowed for Israel tennis match
Published: 18 Feb 09 17:31 CET
Sweden’s upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel will be held behind closed doors, Malmö city council ruled on Wednesday. The decision follows a vocal campaign against the match in protest at the situation in the Middle East.
The match was scheduled to be played from March 6th to 8th at the Baltiska Hallen venue, which can hold 4,000 spectators. Police had said the match could go ahead and that the public could be admitted.
The decision to ban the public was made by the council’s sports and recreation committee on Wednesday afternoon. A Social Democrat and Left Party-led motion to have the match played in an empty hall was passed by five votes to four.
A “Stop the Match” campaign has been underway in Sweden since Israel’s offensive in Gaza erupted last December, and thousands of demonstrators are expected to rally outside the Baltiska Hallen during the match, according to campaign organizers and police.
But the chairman of the sports and recreation committee, Bengt Forsberg (SocDem), insisted that there was no political motive behind his party’s support for the spectator ban:
“This is absolutely not a boycott. We do not take political positions on sporting events,” he told The Local.
“We have made a judgment that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials.”
Forsberg conceded that police had given the event the green light, but added: “ultimately, Malmö council is responsible for safety and security.”
But local Moderate Party representatives were furious at the outcome of the vote, arguing that the match could have gone ahead with spectators and heightened security:
“I don’t think we should allow anti-democratic forces to decide how we run sporting events,” John Roslund, a Moderate Party member of the committee, told The Local.
“Both police and council officials have said that the match could go ahead,” Roslund added.
The Davis Cup match between the two countries hit the headlines in January when a prominent Social Democrat in southern Sweden likened Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany in calling for a boycott.
“Israel is an apartheid state. I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw ghetto,” said Ingalill Bjartén, the vice chair for the Social Democratic women’s organization (S-kvinnor) in Skåne in southern Sweden, to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
“I’m surprised that Israel – where large numbers of the population suffered under the Nazis – can do the exact same things the Nazis did.”
Oh boy, tennis is becoming more politicized than ever. This is pretty unavoidable, given the geopolitical situation, and in a way it says a lot about the meaning of our sport, that it can be used by various groups to make political statements. Unfortunately, it’s the fans and the players who suffer, while the politicians and protesters just move on to other targets. The fans, players and ultimately, the tours, need to fight against this over-politicization by promoting the many ways tennis brings all nations together in celebration of sport. Do you guys have any idea how we, as fans, could work on this?