Balloon and bust

The familiar summer sight of hot air balloons wafting across Stockholm's skyline is under threat, following a new directive from the Swedish Aviation Authority preventing balloons from flying over a large area of the city. The main attraction of every flight, Gamla Stan, is part of the 'no-fly zone'.

“We are obliged to maintain a controlled airspace to protect air traffic approaching Bromma Airport,” said the Aviation Authority’s Willy Svensson. “Air traffic controllers feel that flight safety is being threatened by increased balloon traffic.”

That’s nothing but hot air, according to Casbar Andersson, the owner of Upp & Ner, Stockholm’s largest balloon company.

“Actually we have fewer, but bigger, balloons,” he told DN. “It’s the number of flights into Bromma that’s increasing.”

As well as a complete ban on crossing central Stockholm, the regulations mean that balloon companies will be restricted to making flights after 10pm during the week, after 5pm on Saturdays and after 8pm on Sundays – with immediate effect.

And with twenty balloons – each costing well over a million crowns – in Upp & Ner’s fleet, Casbar Andersson’s plans for a buoyant summer season have been blown sky high.

“Nobody wants to pay to see forest and water,” he said.

Another familiar seasonal sight descended upon Sweden this week, and with no less controversy.

Two days after Integration Minister Mona Sahlin threatened advertisers with tighter legislation if they continued using images which could be considered sexist, Hennes & Mauritz’s summer campaign hit the country’s billboards with pictures of bikini-clad Brazilian models frolicking on a Rio beach.

The centrepiece, a 202-square metre poster draped over the facade of a building with a close-up of a model’s rear, stopped traffic in Stockholm’s Stureplan.

Mona Sahlin refused to comment, so DN asked the inevitable question.

“Isn’t this sexist advertising?” the paper asked H&M’s press officer, Annacarin Björne.

“For us this is about selling swimwear. We want to show our customers what we have in our stores,” she said. “But it’s an interesting and important discussion.”

“And a bit of controversy like this gets us a hell of a lot of press coverage,” she might have added, but didn’t.

As if tanned bare flesh wasn’t enough to throw Stockholm’s streets into confusion, the council’s parking department has come up with a scheme that turns the established concept of crime and punishment on its head.

10,000 motorists who park correctly are to be rewarded with fridge magnets. Lucky law-abiders will also get a picture of Superman (with a P on his chest instead of an S), beneath which the text will read:

“You are a good parker. You are the city’s hero! You belong to the nice majority who park correctly on the city’s streets. You do this so the streets can be cleaned, goods can be delivered and buses can get by. Thank you!”

The scheme will cost the council 50,000 crowns but the head of the parking department, Mikael Forkner, thinks it’s money well spent.

“We invest so much in people who park illegally that we thought it was time to do something for people who park correctly,” he said. “We have chosen to do something humorous. I can’t see anything wrong with that.”

Have you not committed a crime? E-mail The Local and tell us what you deserve for sticking to the letter of the law. And don’t be modest – after all, the bigger the crime you haven’t committed, the bigger the reward you deserve!