The decision to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from the Belarusian capital city is ‘unavoidable’ due ‘to safety and security issues’, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Monday afternoon.
“The IIHF has a duty of care to all Championship participants. As such, IIHF Bylaw 9 provides the IIHF Council the ability to withdraw an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from a hosting nation if there is reason for concern that the well-being or the safe freedom of movement of the players, officials, traveling spectators and media is in doubt,” the statement reads.
According to the federation, the decision was reached by its council following the conclusion of ‘an extensive due diligence process’. They have not specified yet what country would co-host the hight-profile sporting event instead.
As reported earlier, the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Zurich and Lausanne was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In May 2020, the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation announced its decision not to apply to the IIHF to move this year’s championship to 2021. Consequently, the 2021 championship was expected to take place in Minsk and Riga which had won the right to host the corresponding event in the year of 2021. However, due to the rigged elections and the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, a large international movement to deprive Belarus of this right has gained pace.
In November, Latvia banned Belarusian Ice Hockey Association Head Dzmitry Baskau and boxer Dzmitry Shakuta from entering its territory ‘for an unspecified period’ after a number of sportspeople and Internet users familiar with the situation identified Baskau and Shakuta (who belong to Alyksandr Lukashenka’s coterie) in photos and videos of the masked persons who brutally attacked protester Raman Bandarenka. On November 12, the Minsker slipped into a coma and died of severe head injuries.
In late December, a number of Western media reported that the 2021 World Ice Hockey Championship would definitely not be held in Belarus due to the current political situation. Later, Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin, vice-president of the IIHF Kalervo Kummola, head of the Danish Hockey Union Ulrik Larsen, as well as members of the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag called for a boycott or postponement of the World Cup.
A number of companies, including Nivea and Škoda, refused to participate in financing the World Cup if it took place in Belarus.
Last week, IIHF head René Fasel told the Swiss media outlet Watson he ‘had made it clear’ when meeting with Lukashenka that ‘the World Championship [in Minsk] would not be possible without a change in the political situation in the country’.