There are exactly six months left until the World Hockey Championship in Riga and Minsk, but the organization of the tournament is still unclear, creating a number of questions for the organizers of the championship in Latvia, where different scenarios have to be prepared. Minister of Education and Science Ilga Šuplinska (New Conservative Party), who is responsible for the sports sector, told Latvian Radio that the government would first wait for an official letter from the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) before deciding on the next steps. IIHF’s action is also awaited by the company established by the Latvian Hockey Federation (LHF) for organizing the championship in Riga, SIA “Hokeja akadēmija”.
- Both the government and local organizers in Latvia are waiting for the action of the International Hockey Federation.
- Information about the possible transfer of the Minsk part of the championship to Russia is denied by the IIHF official.
- The inclusion of the President of the Belarusian Hockey Federation in the “black list” of Latvia further complicates the situation.
- If the championship is without spectators, there will be nothing to cover the cost of organizing the lion’s court; The organizers in Riga hope for an international federation.
For several months, the IIHF evasively commented on the possible course of the competition and promised to take a decision on hosting the championship in Belarus on November 18. The IIHF board meeting decided to cancel a number of junior and lower division tournaments, but the decision for the championship in Riga and Minsk did not follow. The IIHF stated that the organization needed extra time to analyze the situation.
? A lot of confusion in the organization of the World Hockey ChampionshipMaris Bergs
Šuplinska reminded that Latvia is a co-organizer of the World Championship, which means that the decision to organize the competition is up to the international federation. The Minister predicted that there could be only two or three variants of the IIHF for the course of the championship, moreover, there are sports where the competition planned for the spring of 2021 will be canceled due to the pandemic.
“It is very difficult to predict exactly what the decision-making process will be,” Šuplinska said.
The delays and inability of the IIHF to take a decision have caused dissatisfaction in the federations of powerful hockey powers,
the leaders of the Finnish, Swedish and Czech federations. The Czech Hockey Federation even allows its national team not to be sent to Belarus. Late Thursday night, several sources reported on the possible transfer of the Minsk group to Moscow, saying that the head of the IIHF, Rene Fezel, would go to Russia to agree on it.
Information in the Finnish media was immediately denied by IIHF vice-president Kalervo Kummola, saying it would be an absurd decision due to Russia’s epidemiological situation, and Russian hockey manager Vladislav Tretyak attended the IIHF council meeting in Zurich, so he would not have to go anywhere to meet Fezel.
Meanwhile, the organization of the championship together with the Belarusians is further complicated by the President of the neighboring country’s hockey federation. Dmitry Baskov’s blacklisting of Latvia.
He is linked to the attack on opposition activist Roman Bandarenka, which resulted in the death of the opposition.
Edgars Buncis, the head of the organizers of the championship “Hockey Academy”, told Latvijas Radio that there is a lot of uncertainty on the Latvian side and there is a lack of information about what happened in Belarus. Such a situation is not normal, Buncis admitted. The issue of the world championship is expected to be discussed at the LHF board meeting on Monday.
“Not even so worried that he [Baskovs] cannot enter Latvia. The situation in which he is in is more worrying, “said Buncis.” On the one hand, the guilt has not been proven, but we have not received any denial on our questions as to what has happened and how. “
Delaying the official decision, meanwhile, raises concerns for Latvian organizers,
who may have to host the entire World Cup. This, in turn, would increase the cost of the championship by about 5 million euros and mean the installation of another ice rink. Already now the championship will cost Latvia about 8 million euros and it is planned to cover about 90 percent of the costs with income from ticket sales. However, there is no guarantee that spectators will actually be able to be in the stands in a pandemic, which raises the question of how to cover the costs.
Buncis pointed out that playing without spectators will have to talk to the IIHF about the financial aspects, because
no one wants to cancel two world championships in a row.
“It’s not just a question of us as organizers, it’s a matter for the whole hockey world, because all federations have expressed their readiness and willingness to host the championship, recognizing that not holding for two years in a row can significantly affect the sport,” Buncis said. “If the impact of the pandemic cannot lead to spectators, it is not only our question as organizers, but also the question of IIHF how to organize the championship. If it will be in the form of a ‘bubble’, then they too [IIHF] for their part, should be involved in the organization. “
At the moment, the organizers of the championships have no choice but to wait for the decisions of the IIHF, because this organization is responsible for organizing the tournaments and can postpone or cancel the competition. The next meeting of the IIHF Council is tentatively scheduled for January, but it is expected that pressure on the IIHF will be exerted by other countries’ hockey federations and also by IIHF partners who want a clear and timely solution to the situation.
Belarus and Latvia won the right to host the 2021 World Championship At the IIHF Congress in May 2017. The semi-finals of the tournament and games for medals are planned in Minsk, where, as in Riga, it is planned to hold games of one group. Officially, the world championship is not organized by countries, but by national hockey federations, however, without state financial support, it would not be possible in Minsk or Riga.
Protests continue in Belarus against the results of the August 9 presidential elections. According to official results, the current authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won 80.1% of the voteswhile opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovska only 10.1%. However, the opposition, based on evidence of unprecedented violations, claims that these results are falsified. Protests have been fueled by violence against activists and the detention of opposition and journalists.
Leaders of European Union (EU) member states reached an agreement in early October on imposing sanctions on Belarusian officials. Sanctions against the Belarussian regime were also supplemented Inclusion of Alexander Lukashenko in the list.