Belarus federation insists it can still host 2021 IIHF World Championship
Dmitri Baskov, the newly-appointed president of the Belarus Ice Hockey Federation (BIHA), has claimed there is no reason to strip the country of its co-hosting rights to the 2021 Men’s World Championship despite Latvia submitting a request to find a new partner.
Last week, Baskov was appointed permanent president of the BIHA having been serving as acting head following the resignation of Gennadi Savilov.
He has been tasked with leading the BIHA through co-hosting next year’s World Championship, which the country is scheduled to jointly stage with Latvia from 21 May to 6 June.
However, in a letter to the International Ice Hockey Federation last week, Latvia called on the governing body to find another nation to serve as co-host due to the political unrest in Belarus following the controversial re-election of president Alexander Lukashenko.
Baskov claimed Belarus maintains the right to stage matches at the World Championship.
He told Russian state news agency TASS: “The BIHA has done a great job on the application to host the World Championship together with Latvia, after we received this pre-emptive right, we began to work in this direction together.
“However, today in Latvia they are trying to politicise sports, as for the sports component we have good contacts with the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation and the IIHF. Today there are no prerequisites for not holding one of the best World Championships.”
There have been mass demonstrations is Belarus, which have been met with a violent response from government security forces, and a number of opposition leaders have been detained.
Last month, Krisjanis Karin, the Latvian prime minister, said the country could withdraw from staging the World Championship if the unrest continued.
Responding to the comments, Baskov claimed that while Belarus is not currently considering hosting the event on its own, it does have the capacity to do so if Latvia wanted to withdraw.
He said: “We held such a great championship in 2014, therefore we know that we will have enough capacity and infrastructure to host it again on our own.”
The IIHF is set to discuss the situation at its next council meeting on Thursday.