Can Belarus host the Hockey World Championship?
Officially, the plan is still for Belarus and Latvia to jointly host the Ice Hockey World Championship due to start on 21 May 2021. So far, the International Ice Hockey Federation has only questioned Belarus's suitability as host from the point of view of its lack of coronavirus measures. International commentators call for a clear political statement that cites the allegations of election manipulation and human rights violations.
The International Hockey Federation should not shy away from taking a stand, Keskisuomalainen argues:
“Elsewhere in the world, and in other disciplines, it's becoming increasingly clear that when racism, human rights violations and other unpleasant things are associated with a sport this is bad for business. Advertisers don't want their names to be tainted by unpleasant associations. In hockey, on the other hand, people seem to be waiting for the coronavirus situation to cause the World Championship to be cancelled in spring. In that case the international ice hockey community wouldn't have to take a position on the violations of democracy and human rights in Belarus. It would be much more honest, however, to strip Belarus of the right to host the World Championship for precisely these reasons.”
Don't play the dictator's game
Stripping Belarus of the right to hold the World Championship would send an important signal, says Respekt:
“Lukashenka - himself an avid hockey player - will undoubtedly try to use the much anticipated sporting event to strengthen his regime. He'll want to show that he has everything under control. Relocating the event to another country would show that the West is not willing to play along with this game. Now the puck is in the IHF's corner. And the situation is by no means unsolvable. For example it could give the World Championship to co-host Latvia alone. And if Latvia doesn't have the capacities for that, Canada or Russia are also options.”
Games on frozen blood
Aftonbladet argues that under no circumstances should Sweden take part in the world championship in Belarus:
“If the World Cup takes place against all reason in the Lukashenka violence bubble, every hockey team that takes part in it will be playing on frozen blood. The citizens' initiative 'European Belarus' has put forward several proposals for extended sanctions, such as freezing the accounts of state-owned companies, an embargo on companies that support the regime and the possibility of bringing people involved in the regime's crimes before an international court of justice. All means that serve to end the violence are good.”