Sunday March 07, 2021

IIHF decides to move 2021 WC from Belarus

Published : 19 Jan 2021, 00:12

Updated : 19 Jan 2021, 10:28

  DF Report

Team Finland celebrates during the awarding ceremony after the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Slovakia final between Canada and Finland at Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia on May 26, 2019. File Photo Xinhua.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on Monday decided to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from Minsk, Belarus on security and safety grounds.

The decision was taken by the IIHF Council following the conclusion of an extensive diligence process, said the IIHF in a press release.

The tournament was withdrawn from Belarus in the wake of the growing safety and security concerns related to both the rising political unrest and COVID-19.

“It is a very regrettable thing to have to remove the Minsk/Riga co-hosting bid,” said IIHF President René Fasel in the release, adding that “During this process, we had tried to promote that the World Championship could be used as a tool for reconciliation to help calm the socio-political issues happening in the Belarus and find a positive way forward.”

The tournament was scheduled to be held jointly at Minsk in Belarus and at Riga in Latvia.

The IIHF Council will consider the status of Latvia as a co-host, and will also evaluate the possibility of organising the tournament in a single-venue format.

Political unrest created in Belarus following the presidential election and widespread rigging by President Alexander Lukashenko on August 9, 2020.

Earlier, in December 2019, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to temporally ban Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, also head of Belarus’ National Olympic Committee (NOC), from the Olympic Games.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on August 29 met with the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Heorhiyeuna Tsikhanouskaya (Svjatlana Tsih’anouskaja) in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and discussed the situation following the 9 August controversial presidential election in Belarus.

On 25 August, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö expressed concern at the situation in Belarus following the controversial presidential election, which failed to meet international criteria and urged for a peaceful solution of the crisis through dialogue.