Belarus and Latvia will be one of the best hosts in the history of the world ice hockey championships in 2021, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel in Minsk on 4 January.
“I am very grateful to the International Federation and personally to the president for supporting Belarus and Latvia as co-hosts of the world championship. You can rest assured: together with our neighbors we will prove excellent hosts. It will be one of the best world championships," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The president thanked Rene Fasel for attending the Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament in Minsk. According to the head of state, this tournament in Belarus will be further developed to embrace new participants. “Those wishing to come are many. Due to different reasons we have to keep the format of 12 teams. We would like to expand it,” he said. “For athletes it is a true celebration: they have an opportunity to meet on the ice decades after they retired from the professional sport.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that ice hockey players finish their careers at 30-35, some of them play longer. Over the years they spend in sport they get used to applause and packed arenas, he added. “In ice hockey and other sports, we try to prolong the careers of athletes, especially in game sports because they are loved by people. This is the idea that was born in Belarus, and we did a lot to fulfill it,” the president told the story of the Christmas tournament. “The goal is one: to prolong sport careers of athletes and popularize a healthy lifestyle,” he added.
Belarusian amateur ice hockey players and former professional athletes play in the Night Hockey League. A multi-functional sports complex with two ice hockey arenas has been built in Minsk for them. “We lacked ice arenas, especially in Minsk, and we had to build these two rinks. The Night Hockey League plays there in the evenings. So we have solved the problem of availability of ice rinks for ice hockey lovers,” he said.
The president expressed gratitude to the IIHF head for the support of the Belarusian ice hockey. “We are doing a lot for this sport. Although the current situation in the Belarusian ice hockey (and you know this perfectly well) is not satisfactory. We will surely rectify the situation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Rene Fasel, for his part, shared his impressions of yesterday’s game between the Belarus President’s Team and the IIHF Team. Belarus won the fixture 11-3. “It was a great hockey. You skate better than me, because I actually fell,” he recalled a moment from the official face-off. “You did it like a pro,” the head of state joked back.
“I am happy to be here. It is great to see representatives of 20 countries here. It is truly important for sport,” Rene Fasel said. He called the Christmas international tournament one of the biggest amateur world championships. “Thank you for what you are doing,” the IIHF president added.