The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has decided that the Latvian capital, Riga, will be the sole host for the 2021 World Championship, after Minsk was stripped of the right to co-host the competition last month.
The IIHF said in a statement on February 2 that the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, and Herning in Denmark offered to co-host the tournament in May-June, but the organization decided it was best to keep all teams in Riga throughout the event and avoid travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On January 18, the IIHF said it had decided to move the 2021 World Championship from Minsk due to safety and security issues that are “beyond its control,” amid mounting pressure from European countries and sponsors for Belarus to be stripped of its role as co-host of the tournament because of an ongoing crackdown by authorities following a disputed election last year.
Strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka has faced protests since the August 9 presidential vote, which handed him a sixth presidential term in a contest the opposition says was rigged.
The European Union and the United States have declined to recognize Lukashenka’s reelection and have imposed sanctions in connection with the violent crackdown on protesters.
In its February 2 statement, the IIHF said the 2021 World Championship would take place in Riga under a number of conditions, including that all 16 participating teams should be housed in one hotel.
“The IIHF Council cited the ongoing challenges placed by COVID-19 together with various technical reasons for its decision to keep the tournament in one city,” the federation said.
“With continued uncertainty surrounding international travel restrictions, the council believes that keeping all teams in Riga throughout the tournament and avoiding travel between two host countries is the safest and most cost-effective way to operate the event,” it added.