Belarus has been stripped of the right to hold the World Ice-Hockey Championship this year, over “safety and security issues”, the International Ice-Hockey Federation (IIHF) said on Monday. 

“Due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF’s control, the IIHF Council confirmed today that the decision to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from Minsk, Belarus is unavoidable,” reads an IIHF announcement.

Citing both the “rising political unrest” and the Coronavirus pandemic, IIHF said its Council has determined its is “currently impossible to ensure the welfare of teams, spectators and officials while holding a World Championship in Belarus.”

Commenting on the decision, Rene Fasel, IIHF President said it is” a very regrettable thing” that the Minsk/Riga co-hosting bid will be removed, stressing that throughout the process, the federation has been trying 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.”

“And while the Council feels that the World Championship should not be used for political promotion by any side, it has acknowledged that hosting this event in Minsk would not be appropriate when there are bigger issues to deal with and the safety and security of teams, spectators, and officials to prioritize,” Fasel’s statement adds. 

Reacting to the announcement, Belarus’ opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya tweeted that the decision was a “common victory”.

“This is a victory for every Belarusian who knows that hockey is a game and Belarusians are not planning to play with criminals,” Tikhanovskaya said, adding that “This is our common victory.”


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