Thursday, February 26, 2009
About 1,000 cops to handle security
MALMO, Sweden -- About 1,000 police from seven counties will handle security ahead of Sweden's Davis Cup match against Israel next week amid fears that protests could turn violent.
Police commissioner Hakan Jarborg Eriksson said Thursday that officials expect a "Stop the Match" protest, formed after Israel's offensive in Gaza started in December, to be relatively calm. But there are fears that protests from small, radical groups could turn violent.
The first-round World Group match will be played March 6-8 without fans at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall. Only teams, officials, some sponsors and journalists will be allowed to enter the hall.
Organizers of a "Stop the Match" campaign expect 8,000 to 12,000 will demonstrate on March 7 before the Davis Cup doubles match.
"They have said that they want to stop the match at all costs," Jarborg Eriksson told Swedish news agency TT.
Left-wing groups, human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups also plan to demonstrate during the best-of-five series.
The Israeli team is scheduled to arrive Sunday. Sweden's squad is practicing in Stockholm this weekend before heading to Malmo.
This week in Dubai, Israeli Andy Ram played in a tennis tournament under heavy security and body guards. Ram was granted a visa by the government after Israel's Shahar Peer was denied a visa for the women's tournament because of security concerns.
Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticized Israel over the Gaza invasion, and some have called for the Davis Cup match to be dropped altogether.
Malmo officials announced last week that the match played behind closed doors after a vote on the issue in the city's recreational committee. The committee said it could not guarantee security for the fans.
It will be the second time a Davis Cup match is played in an empty arena in Sweden. In 1975, Sweden played Chile in Bastad without spectators. That was two years after a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet against the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.
A seven-time Davis Cup champion, Sweden also played Israel last year in the first round and won 3-2 near Tel Aviv.