MOSCOW, January 15. /TASS/. President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel believes it will be complicated to organize matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk and Riga with spectators in attendance due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
"We know it will be very difficult to play with spectators [in attendance]," Fasel said in an interview with TASS. "It will have an impact on us [IIHF] because the organizers will not be able to cover all the costs."
"Because if you do not sell tickets and you do not have income they will be not able to cover the costs," he said. "It will have a financial impact and that’s for sure."
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. However, various European public organizations called on the IIHF recently to relocate championship’s matches from Minsk due to a tense political situation in Belarus.
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.