European Games 2019 in Belarus could face boycott

Less than a year remains until the Second European Games, which will be held in Minsk. While the authorities of Belarus are actively preparing for the competition, the world has already seen the first boycott statements. They are primarily due to pressure on independent media.

The big festival of the Belarusian authorities — the second European games, which are either “Olympics” or “European Championship”, may face a boycott. So far, it is possible only from Germany.

“We do not exclude that if the events in Belarus develop in this way, the German Olympic Committee may decide to boycott the European Games. We are concerned about the events in Belarus, and we are following them closely,” said Alfons Hörmann, president of the German Olympic Committee.

The issue here is pressure on independent media, which has recently intensified. In the framework of the so-called BelTA case the police detained, among others, journalist of the German Deutsche Welle Paulyuk Bykousky.

Meanwhile, the boycott of the events planned for July next year is being held not only abroad. Most of the Minskers we interviewed are not enthusiastic about the celebration.

Residents of Minsk:

“What games?! We do not care about them at all, people have nothing to eat…”

“The Games are needed to promote the country.”

Such answers, however, do not fit in with the words of the country’s leader.

“These Games will be the best Olympic European games, since the entire Belarusian nation will experience them.”

According to Lukashenka, “the best Euro games in history” will cost about 50 million dollars. For comparison, the previous competitions held three years ago in Azerbaijani Baku, cost not less than a billion dollars.

For Lukashenka, the issue of image and rating is now acute.

But it is impossible both to enjoy easy victories and to attack the basic freedoms, Vital Tsyhankou, a political observer of Radio Liberty, notes.

“The German Olympic Committee decided to put pressure on the sore spot in advance, knowing that this is a weak point, a sensitive point for Alyaksandr Lukashenko, and to warn that, indeed, when the press freedom situation in Belarus worsens, it can reach a real boycott,” said Vital.

Whether the Western message will be heard by the initiators of the European Games is not yet known. But even if the interest to the Games is minimal, the authorities can always activate the proven administrative resource.

Stsyapan Svyatlou,

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