The Ice Hockey World Cup was scheduled to be played in Belarus and Latvia from May 21, 2021. But yesterday, the Latvian government announced that it does not want to share hosting with Belarus.
"Given the situation in Belarus, we have decided to start talks with the International Ice Hockey Federation about moving next year's Ice Hockey World Cup from Minsk to another country while Riga will remain the host," Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said in a statement.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Association sees the situation as problematic.
- It is clear that when you connect what you see through the media reporting from Belarus with the message from the Latvian government yesterday, there are a lot of challenges linked to the World Cup event. I mean it is less than a year until the world championships take place and it is clear that it is a problematic situation, says chairman Anders Larsson.
Have you taken a stand on the part of the Swedish union? Have you contacted the International Federation?
- As chairman, I have had contact with René Fasel, who is chairman of our international association. Since then, we have also had some other contacts at the official level to keep us updated. For our part in Swedish ice hockey, the starting point is that we try to stick to the hockey and follow guidelines and instructions from both the international federation and the Swedish government.
The international federation has a board meeting in mid-September and then this issue will be addressed.
Do you think it is a good idea to host the World Cup in Belarus next year?
- What is described in the media about the situation in Belarus right now feels anything but good, of course. Then we will see how it develops and what conclusions are drawn by the international federation and by the Swedish government. We in the ice hockey association do not have a foreign policy agenda in that way, but on the other hand we are naturally responsive.
Latvia does not want to host the World Cup with Belarus. Can it be relevant for Sweden to become a sub-organizer?
- Right now we have to wait and see how the discussions go between our international federation and both Belarus and Latvia. What does the message that came yesterday mean in practice and how do you proceed? Linked to this situation is also the covid-19 challenge for the entire hockey season. There are very many degrees of freedom in the air right now, so I think we from Swedish hockey are wise to wait for the coming weeks.
You said in an interview with TT last week that major sports championships can be a good way to highlight various problems that exist in countries. Do you stick to it?
- Yes, if you look at a number of major events that have taken place over the years, ranging from world championships to the Olympic Games, it has been shown that sports can build new bridges and shed light on issues other than sports in different nations. Issues such as openness and democracy.
On the other hand, can one argue that one then approves of what is going on in a country?
- There are of course two sides to the coin, but what you have to remember in this particular case is that we have a democratic order in our international ice hockey association. Everyone is voting and in 2017 Belarus was elected together with Latvia as organizers of what was known then. Now it is a somewhat new situation and then we have to wait and see how it develops.