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Latvian PM Karins: 2021 Hockey World Championship matches to be played without spectators

The IIHF Council announced on Tuesday that the Latvian capital of Riga would be the sole host for all matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship

RIGA, February 3. /TASS/. Matches of the 2021 IIHF (the International Ice Hockey Federation) Ice Hockey World Championship in the Latvian capital of Riga will be played without spectators in attendance due to anti-COVID-19 measures, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said on Wednesday.

The IIHF Council announced on Tuesday that the Latvian capital of Riga would be the sole host for all matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship,

"This will be the championship without spectators in attendance, it will be epidemiologically safe and it will be held in the ‘bubble format,’ which will isolate players and other people from the rest of society," Karins said on air of Latvia’s TV3 television channel.

The 2021 Ice Hockey Championship will be played at two venues in Riga. The main venue will be the Arena Riga and it will host Group B, two quarter-final games, the semi-final round and the medal round. The second venue will be the Olympic Sports Centre, which will be converted into a 6,000-capacity ice rink and will host Group A and two quarter-final games. All 16 participating teams will be housed in one hotel.

Karins also said that "the [Latvian] government will render its support to the Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, but the exact sum of the financing has not been defined as of yet."

"However, a lion’s share of all financial obligations will be covered by the International Ice Hockey Federation," the Latvian prime minister added.

On January 18, the IIHF Council announced a decision to strip the Belarusian capital of Minsk of the right to host matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship and to relocate them to another venue. The IIHF said in a statement at that time it made that decision "Due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF’s control."

Matches of the 2021 IIHF World Championship in the Latvian capital of Riga and the Belarusian capital of Minsk were scheduled to be played between May 21 and June 6, 2021. However, various European public organizations called on the IIHF to relocate championship’s matches from Minsk due to a tense political situation in Belarus. Tournament’s sponsors also threatened to leave in case Belarus hosted the championship.

The IIHF Council considered three options to substitute cancelled matches in Belarus - Latvia’s Riga hosting all matches of the championship or co-hosting the championship either with Denmark’s Herning or Slovakia’s Bratislava.