(ATR) The International Ice Hockey Federation will be conducting a full review of the 2021 IIHF World Championship to determine if the ongoing political protests in Belarus could present a safety risk for the tournament.
Belarus protests began after the disputed August 9 election. (Wikipedia)
Earlier this month, co-host Latvia sent a letter to the IIHF requesting that another country step in as co-host for Belarus.
The letter also said that Latvia would pull out of co-hosting if the situation continues and the IIHF “does not take the respective decisions” in removing Belarus.
“This is the first time that a government of a host nation has indicated its unwillingness to remain a tournament co-host with another host nation due to political reasons,” said IIHF President René Fasel in a statement after the federation council met on Thursday.
“The IIHF is deeply concerned over the recent events unfolding in Minsk, but as a sports federation the IIHF is not a political entity and cannot move a tournament for political reasons.
“However, the IIHF is responsible for ensuring that each tournament host can guarantee the health and safety of the players, officials, and spectators.”
The IIHF Council says it will create “an Expert Group to conduct a full review of the tournament’s status and consult with all relevant experts in the financial, medical, event, marketing, sport, legal, and administrative areas of the World Championship”.
The group will present its findings at the next IIHF Council meeting in November.
Minsk Arena is scheduled to host the semifinal and medal matches. (IIHF)
The 2021 IIHF World Championship is scheduled for May 21 – June 6 with Riga, Latvia and Minsk, Belarus each hosting one group and two quarterfinal games. Minsk Arena, the same venue used when Minsk had the 2014 edition, is scheduled to host the semifinals and medal matches.
The protests in Belarus have continued since the disputed August 9 presidential election, where Alexander Lukashenko supposedly won re-election with 80 percent of the vote.
The European Parliament voted on Thursday to reject the results of the election and said it would not recognize Lukashenko as the president after his current term expires on November 5.
More than 100,000 protesters took to the streets of Minsk last Sunday. The Associated Press
reported more than 400 people were detained by authorities.
Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus for 26 years and is considered Europe's last dictator. He has told Russian media that he would not step down.
Written by Gerard Farek
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