Minsk and Riga have to host the 2021 World Cup this year, but the Latvian government does not want to hold a tournament with Belarus, because the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko is using repression against peaceful protesters.
It was originally planned that the IIHF Council would decide on November 18 whether to continue to entrust part of the organization of the World Cup to Minsk, but now the decision has been postponed until the end of January.
The President of the IIHF, René Fezel from Switzerland, met with the President of the country Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus on Monday. Fezel told the IIHF board about his visit to Belarus on Tuesday night, and Kummola told Finnish radio that the situation was getting worse for Belarus.
“It seems that the situation will be resolved in the way I have represented myself all along,” Kummola said. “We will definitely look for other options, and no decision has been made officially. However, it takes some time to explore the other options. It would probably be easiest to play, for example, in Latvia.”
The functionary believes that the Swiss press is also gradually influencing Fazel’s views.
The radio reports that Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marina and Foreign Minister Peka Havisto have expressed the views of the Finnish state, but Kummola has said since the autumn that the championship in Belarus should not take place due to both human rights violations and the coronavirus situation.
The situation was already reported to have worsened on Monday, when Fasso’s visit to Lukashenko began with sincere envy and photography with Dmitry Baskov, president of the Belarusian Hockey Federation (FHB), who is investigating the IIHF. In the autumn, the Belarusian sports portal Tribuna reported that Baskov was present in the attack, after which opposition activist Raman Bandarenka died at the hospital.
Kummola reports that these hugs may have been part of Lukashenko’s propaganda.
The fate of the championship is likely to be decided on January 27, when the IIHF has a meeting on the subject.
“We will work next week, then we will contact the participating countries. January 27 is definitely the day of our meeting. Then decisions have to be made,” said the IIHF vice-president in a conversation with Finnish radio.
The first step is to make a political decision, then to settle many financial issues, Kummola stressed.
Lukashenko announced on Monday that Belarus is still ready to host the Games, even without Latvia’s participation in the championship.
“Answering the main question, how do I perceive all the movements around the World Cup in Belarus, I will say openly – very calmly. If the International Hockey Federation will be able to withstand unfair pressure, then we will host the World Cup. it will be the best world championship in history, “Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Belarusian state news agency BelTA.
Riga and Minsk beat the Finnish cities of Helsinki and Tampere in a fierce battle in May 2017. It is currently planned that group tournaments and two quarterfinals will take place in Riga and Minsk, while the semifinals and the finals will be held in the capital of Belarus.
In May, the IIHF decided that Latvia, Canada, Finland, the USA, Germany, Norway, Italy and Kazakhstan would play in Group B in Riga, while Belarus, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark and Great Britain would fight in Group A.
The Minsk World Cup was also hosted in 2014, and already at that time the European Parliament called on the IIHF to prevent Belarus from hosting the championship, citing the authorities’ repression of the opposition.
In 2022 it is planned to host the tournament for Finland (Helsinki and Tampere), in 2023 – for Russia (St. Petersburg), in 2024 for the Czech Republic (Prague and Ostrava), and in 2025 – for Sweden and Denmark.
The 2021 World Championship is scheduled for May 21 to June 6. It was previously planned that the championship would start on May 7, but it was postponed a couple of weeks ahead because the national championships in Europe could be delayed.
Riga has hosted the World Championships for the only time so far in 2006.
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