Final whistle for Ice Hockey Championship in Belarus

After months of protests the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has stripped Belarus of the right to co-host the World Championship this year. Commentators welcome this outcome but are not happy about the way it came about.

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Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

All thanks to the players

No sooner had the Ice Hockey Federation announced it was withdrawing the World Championship from Belarus than everyone came out to applaud, comments the Wiener Zeitung snidely:

“Of course that's what they had all wanted all along. To have been in favour, retroactively, of something that has already happened is not overly taxing. ... Yet this is not even the half of it. Because it was only after major sponsors threatened to withdraw that the pressure on the IIHF became so strong that it had no other option than to strip Belarus of the World Championship. But the players had been building the pressure all along, defying the repressions and drawing attention to the abuses. Without them nothing would have happened.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

The sponsor had to threaten to leave first

The IIHF is stumbling from one shameful blunder to the next, Iltalehti comments:

“Latvia had already declared in the autumn that under no circumstances would it co-host the World Championship with Belarus. But the IIHF still took an annoyingly long time to reach a decision. It wasn't until the main sponsor, car manufacturer Škoda, announced that it would withdraw from the World Championship unless the host was changed, that the federation finally made up its mind. It is embarrassing that the IIHF only acted out of fear of financial losses. Even more embarrassing is that the federation is still not daring to speak about human rights, but is instead invoking 'security' concerns as the reason for its decision.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Sport used to wield more clout

Ria Nowosti bemoans that international sport no longer holds much sway over politics and economics, but that the opposite is now the case:

“The main problem is that the power of sport - as an influential global system and heavyweight business - is dissolving before our eyes and simply ceasing to exist. But high-level sport functionaries have yet to come to terms with the sad perspectives this entails. ... The profound indifference with which the world reacted to the pandemic-related postponing of the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the apathy in the face of their potential cancellation shows how much public interest and sympathy for international sport in general has waned. And once the authority that comes with social status and political clout disappears, so does the money.”