Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tie played amid heavy security

March 7th, 2009 - 2:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Malmo/Stockholm, March 7 (DPA) Swedish police officers greatly outnumbered anti-Israel protesters at the arena where Sweden and Israel finished 1-1 on the first day of their Davis Cup clash.
The tie in the southern city of Malmo was played Friday behind closed doors. The first match featured Sweden’s Thomas Johansson against Israel’s Harel Levi.

It has been classified as a high-risk event over potential protests by groups wanting to denounce the recent Israeli offensive against the Hamas in Gaza.

Former Swedish great Mats Wilander and Israel team member Andy Ram were among those critical of the decision by Malmo’s city council to host the match.

Supporters of the Swedish section of the pro-Palestinian group International Solidarity Movement were among the first to gather in the morning near the Baltic Hall arena.

Some 20 demonstrators unfurled banners and a Palestinian flag, and a few played an improvised tennis match with toy plastic rackets.

Later a dozen demonstrators braved the freezing wind and sat down briefly on the street outside the cordons before dispersing. Others shouted slogans including “Stop the match.”

Two perimeter fences have been erected around the arena, and a nearby school and a Pentecostal church were closed Friday.

Last month, Malmo city council’s board for leisure, recreation and sport activities voted that the tie would be played behind closed doors, citing security concerns.

The move came in the wake of anti-Israel protests during a match of Israel player Shahar Peer at a tournament in Auckland. Peer was later given no visa for a tournament in Dubai, but Ram played there a week later.

Specially reinforced police vehicles used by police in neighbouring Denmark were on standby at Malmo along with a vehicle equipped with a scoop in order to remove torched cars or other debris.

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