MINSK, January 13. /TASS/. Organizers of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk are ready to provide in full volume security for participants and guests of the tournament, the organizing committee of the championship said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Belarus is ready to provide in full volume the whole complex of required measures, including in the organizational and anti-epidemic spheres, as well as to provide security and comfortable staying of participants and guests, taking into account recent recommendations from the IIHF [the International Ice Hockey Federation]," the statement reads.
The statement, which was published on the official website of the Belarusian Council of Ministers, also said that the Belarusian side will be following all "recommendations and regulations stipulated by the IIHF for holding tournaments under COVID-19 pandemic, will offer access to foreign media for accreditations to give coverage of the championship and guarantees stable Internet access."
IIHF President Rene Fasel traveled this week to the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where he held a number of official meetings, including with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, discussing the organization of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship.
After his visit to Belarus, Fasel announced today that "The first option remains to have a World Championship in Minsk and Riga 2021, under the conditions outlined by the IIHF."
The president of the world’s governing body of ice hockey also stated that "If we move forward with Minsk as a tournament host, we also must establish a system where we can be assured that the Belarus government is taking concrete actions towards fulfilling the pledges made to the IIHF, otherwise it will not be possible to hold a World Championship in Minsk due to the elevated safety issues."
The 2021 IIHF World Championship was initially scheduled to be co-hosted by Latvia and Belarus between May 7 and 23, 2021. However, the IIHF Congress on June 22, 2020 announced new dates for the 2021 World Championship in Latvia and Belarus, taking into account the ongoing global spread of the novel coronavirus.
Matches of the 2021 IIHF World Championship in the Latvian capital of Riga and the Belarusian capital of Minsk were moved to be played between May 21 and June 6, 2021.
IIHF Vice President Kalervo Kummola said last August in an interview with Finland’s daily Ilta-Sanomat that he had proposed to relocate the championship from Belarus, which was hit last year by nationwide protests.
Swiss-based newspaper Watson reported in late December that the IIHF administration made a decision to relocate matches of the 2021 IIHF World Championship from Belarus to another country.
Protests in Belarus
Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9, 2020 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot.
However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police.