He has been the head of world hockey for more than a quarter of a century. His sixth and final term ends this year. To leave as president, who did not organize the World Cup twice in a row? No way!
René Fasel firmly claims that the world championship will take place in May. But the problem that worries not only the head of the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the location.
Latvia does not want to co-organize a tournament with Belarus. He blames a neighbor from behind the southern border for the repressive interventions of President Alexander Lukashenko’s political regime against the opposition and protesters.
“We are working with different alternatives, but the main idea remains that the event will take place in two originally selected countries,” says Fasel.
Negation from Slovaks
He knows that it will not be so easy. Latvians have repeatedly stated that organizational cooperation with Minsk is not possible. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevich presented their position last week.
“We insist on what we said in the fall. Violent crackdown on demonstrators, including athletes, human rights abuses and other repression is common in Belarus. To organize a hockey tournament in such conditions would be immoral and contrary to the principles of humanity and sport, “says Rinkevičs.
Pressure on Fasel and IIHF is rising. Lukashenko’s dictatorship was also opposed by the International Olympic Committee, which banned him from participating in the Tokyo Olympics. He accuses him of insufficient protection of Belarusian athletes. 50 MEPs have also joined in, demanding that the championship be allocated to another country.
Slovakia is also involved in this context. Assuming that one group remains in Riga, in addition to Copenhagen and Prague, Bratislava is also mentioned as a replacement for Minsk. That is, the place where in May 2019 they decorated the last Finnish world champions so far.
“Our task is to gather as much information as possible. The process also includes the possibility that another country could be a co-organizer of the World Cup. We received an offer from Denmark and we are also conducting talks with Slovakia,” emphasizes the head of the IIHF.
Although the idea of another championship in Slovakia may be attractive to our people, the domestic hockey association does not solve a similar alternative and negates the words of the president.
“We are not currently negotiating with the International Hockey Federation to take over the 2021 World Cup. At the moment, we are not even dealing with such a matter. Above all, we believe that the IIHF will solve the situation and the world championship will take place, “the PR manager of SZĽH Peter Jánošík responded for Pravda.
Covid and the murder investigation
Several participating countries are not only hampered by President Lukashenko’s policies. By the way, he has been the head of the country for as long as Fasel IIHF – 27 years.
According to observers, the country does not meet European standards in the fight against the pandemic. The Ministry of Health argues that Belarus has one of the lowest covid mortality indices in Europe.
“We have large hospitals and a sufficient number of beds. Older citizens do not have to live in old-age houses with us. We can take care of our people. Leave us the championship and we will show you that we can organize the best event in history, “says Lukashenko.
The same Lukashenko who claimed during the first wave of the pandemic that a person would overcome the virus by drinking vodka and sweating in saunas. “Going to play hockey in a country where the president wants to handle an alcohol pandemic?” Not even a million dollars, “says American journalist Alan Smithson.
Dmitry Baskov is also a thorn in the side for hockey powers. The former player and currently the head of Belarusian hockey is suspected of participating in the physical assault of Raman Bandarenka.
A civil activist beaten during a demonstration in central Minsk and the Basques was supposed to be doing so. He did not survive the attack and died in the hospital as a result of injuries.
“We know about the problems in Belarus. Competents undertook to prepare an anticovide manual. We will also thoroughly investigate the situation regarding Baskov. We are running out of time, but there is still some left. The final decision will be made by the IIHF Council at the end of January, “adds Fasel.
Slovaks will also wait for her verdict. So far, all they have to do is present themselves in the A-group together with Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark, Belarus and the United Kingdom. The “bulls” include Canada, Finland, the USA, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Italy and Kazakhstan.
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