The campaign for moving the Ice Hockey Championship from Belarus to another country is widening.
An Austrian politician, the chairman of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, a Rapporteur on Russia Hannes Swoboda has addressed his fellow MPs, as well as the leadership of the Austrian National Ice Hockey Federation, sportsmen and fans with a call to oppose holding the Ice Hockey World Championship – 2014 in Minsk.
The statement was made before the Congress of IIHF in Helsinki in May, where the question of the place for holding the Ice Hockey Championship in 2014 is to be discussed, Radio Svaboda informs.
Hannes Swoboda reminded about the human rights situation in Belarus and noted that hockey, which is closely interwoven with politics in Belarus, seems one of the few kinds of leverages over the internal political situation in the country.
Mr. Swoboda spoke in favour of a decision of the IIHF to move the championship in case the top hockey fan of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, would not release all political prisoners, a Finnish periodical Verkkouutiset writes.
In his address to Finnish colleagues he lambasted not only the policy of the IIHF, but of other international sports federations. Their leadership, as said by him, ignores the fact that many dictators use sport and sportsmen in order to improve the image of their regimes, while sports officials themselves often state: “Our position is to stay away from politics.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation is to consider the issue of moving the world championship from Belarus to another country. This issue is on the agenda of the session of the Federation which is to take place in Helsinki in May.
The idea to move it to another country emerged after disband of the protest rally against rigged presidential election results on December 19, 2010.
Many political and public leaders from all over the world have signed the address to change the place of holding the championship. The idea to move the Ice Hockey Championship from Belarus has been supported by the European Parliament and the US Congress.
Russia opposes this idea.
There was a precedent of moving a championship to another country in history. In connection with invasion of the Warsaw Pack states to Czechoslovakia in 1968 the ice hockey championship in 1969 was not held in Prague as it had been planned, but in Stockholm.