Tuesday

25th Apr 2017

Ice Hockey finals in Belarus still on schedule

  • Belarus is hosting the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship (Photo: Patxi64)

The large, red 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship billboards and posters adorning walls in the Belarus capital are unlikely to come down anytime soon.

Despite international pressure to pull the venue from Minsk, a spokesperson for the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation told this website on Thursday (22 March) that he does not know of any European national ice hockey federation that wants the event moved.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In Finland, the response to the EUobserver query was concise. "We have absolutely no comment to make on this issue," said their national ice hockey federation spokesperson.

In Lithuania, the president of their national hockey federation, said there is no point in mixing politics with sports.

"I know the Belarus ice hockey federation and I know how much they have organised this event at the highest level. Politics should not be a factor," he said, adding that the sentiment is shared by federations in neighbouring countries.

But in Belarus, politics is never too far from removed from sports.

President Alexander Lukashenko is an avid ice hockey player and fan who, when not throwing his political opponents in jail, is also the head of the country’s national Olympic committee.

He has built 25 so-called ice palaces throughout the country with another 27 planned. Each ice-palace costs around €22.7 million, according to Fedynitch Gennadi, chairman of a Minsk-based trade union.

A call by the European Parliament in March to pressure the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to move the venue appear to largely have been ignored by the federations. The US passed a similar bill in January.

Both are demanding that Belarus release all its political prisoners for the event to continue in Minsk.

The IIHF, which organizes the championships, said it is possible the issue will be raised at the upcoming ice hockey congress in Finland this May. Delegates from the 70 national ice hockey federations would then put it to a vote.

But in a sign of decisions to come, the IIHF spokesperson noted that a statute in their laws does not allow them "to discriminate on religious, racial or political grounds." The vast majority of the federations already voted in favour of Belarus two years ago, when the country was officially selected.

Slovak centre-right MEP Peter Stastny, a former ice hockey star, said that European national ice hockey federations are largely funded by taxpayers.

Stastny wants the championship moved from Belarus, stating that MEPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution on 20 January 2011 condemning Belarus for trampling democratic principles and human rights.

"Ice hockey championships is like the Olympics, it's a matter of prestige and I don’t personally want ice hockey to be associated with the dictator in Belarus," said Stastny.

Stastny believes the US law passed in January essentially determines how the US delegation will vote if the issue is raised in May. However, the US Hockey Federation declined to comment, telling this website that they "are aware of the situation."

Meanwhile, Lukashenko on Wednesday (21 March) called the European Parliament’s proposal "a political move, nothing else."

In Minsk, massive construction efforts are currently underway to improve inner-city infrastructure. A new underground metro line is being purposely built to carry fans to and from anyone of the two selected venues.

The largest of the two venues is the Minsk Arena, a glass and steel building that can seat some 15,000 people.

Lukashenko has been known to awaken members of the Belarus national ice hockey team in the middle of the night to play the game. But the nocturnal forays are not restricted to Minsk.

Near Brest on the Polish border, one ice-hockey rink has become the infamous venue for midnight matches where police and the business elite can knock about a puck while discussing the orders of the day, says Gennadi.

"Rich people from Minsk go to play hockey there in the night and locals call it the NHL, for Night Hockey League," he says.

Investigation

Belarus, EU sanctions and the $1mn bounty

Even as Lukashenko becomes increasingly cruel and unusual, the EU capital is seeing an unprecedented amount of lobbying on his behalf.

Russia threat triggers European military spending hike

Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine has intensified military and defence spending throughout much of Central Europe, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Investigation

Illicit Russian money poses threat to EU democracy

It cost €11 million to help Le Pen campaign in elections, but it cost the Russian mafia less than €100,000 to hire a former UK attorney general to lobby against EU sanctions.

Investigation

Sex and lies: Russia's EU news

France and Germany have been targeted for years with fake news and lies designed to incite sexual revulsion toward migrants and the politicians who gave them shelter.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  2. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  3. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  4. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  5. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  6. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  7. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  9. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  10. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  11. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society

Latest News

  1. Le Pen-Poutine: des liens qui remontent à loin
  2. Juncker breaks tradition with support for Macron
  3. Les fake news inondent les réseaux sociaux français
  4. Les amis de Le Pen à la Trump Tower
  5. France's election run-off will be far-right versus EU
  6. Alternative for Germany party refuses to shun extreme right
  7. Brexit summit, Turkey and Hungary dominate EU This WEEK
  8. Russia threat triggers European military spending hike