The regime is toxic in every way.
The decision of the International Ice Hockey Federation to cancel the World Championship in Minsk is a strong blow to Lukashenka's image in the eyes of Belarusian society, the nomenclature, and the international community.
Those who say that sports are beyond politics should take a look at Lukashenka's Belarus. As if inadvertently, sports have become an important part of the country's state policy to refute the postulate. The fact that Lukashenka is the president of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus is unique to the world community. He has repeatedly stated that Belarus' sports achievements are more important than diplomatic efforts of the Foreign Ministry. Lukashenka is a direct supervisor of sports federations and the national team. He also gave hockey players practical instructions on how to play. He also dictated the tactics of Olympic biathlon champion Daria Domracheva.
Besides, sports are something personal for Lukashenka.
Well, no one in Belarus doubts that hockey for Lukashenka is the most important arts of all. Natallia Kachanava said: "Hockey is an ideology that can unite the nation".
Various international competitions in Belarus has long been an instrument to improve the international image of the country and the current political regime. Therefore, the Belarusian authorities tried to hold any sports forums here, regardless of the financial costs.
Ice Hockey World Championship this year in Minsk was of great importance to Lukashenka. After all, the issue has grown in status for the regime that has found itself in international isolation. Furthermore, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to expel members of the executive committee of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus, headed by Lukashenka, from the Olympic Games and other activities of the organization.
By the way, I should remind you that on December 7, the IOC published recommendations. They included a clause prohibiting the organization of major international competitions in Belarus in the current situation. Then Lukashenka called the IOC and its president Thomas Bach a "gang".
The Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk could indicate that the political situation in the country had stabilized, and the authorities had taken full control of it. Official Minsk did hope it could improve the country's international reputation and mark a break from isolation and a gradual thaw in relations with the West. It was similar to the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship, hosted by Belarus. It marked a process of détente in the country's relations with the USA and the European Union.
This time it failed. The cancellation of the World Championship in Minsk was very painful for Lukashenka. It proves that the current international isolation of Belarus is stronger than before. It is so strong that even Lukashenka's friend Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), was unable to do anything. (I wonder if the expression "Fasel Gang" appears in the official Belarusian lexicon.)
The IIHF decision is a strong blow to Lukashenka's image in the eyes of the Belarusian society and the nomenclature. It signals that not only Aliaksandr Lukashenka is a toxic figure in the political sense. The situation is even worse. Belarus is a toxic country under the current regime in economic, humanitarian and cultural terms. And now for sports events as well.
Valery Karbalevich, Radio Svaboda