Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session on preparations for 2014 IIHF World Championship

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President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko wants everyone involved to give their best effort in the final period of the preparations for the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk. The head of state made the statement at the government session held on 15 October to discuss preparations for and hosting the championship.

The IIHF World Championship will take place on 9-25 May 2014, with about 200 days left till the event.

According to the head of state, the world championship is not just another sport event. “It will be the time for us to show the country before the entire world. The entire world’s opinion about Belarus will depend on what the country will look like”. The President believes that the world championship should also produce serious economic and financial returns.

“This is why the 2014 world championship will be a serious test and an exam for all agencies,” Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced. “We have to show the face of the state and it is complicated because the problem has acquired a political angle recently. People will come to Belarus not only for the sake of seeing their favorite team play, for watching all these processes. At the back of their minds they may wonder what Belarus is, what the country that someone tries to deprive of the world championship is. Therefore, Belarus should prove to everyone that it is truly a civilized Central European country. “We want people to say that it is a completely normal country, a [completely normal] city and nothing like what they read in mass media,” the President said.

“I want everyone involved to give their best effort in the final period of the preparations. We must demonstrate a high level of organization of the world championship before the entire international community. Our goal is to make the presence of guests in Belarus comfortable. The service we provide has to be able to satisfy most exacting customers,” the head of state stressed.

The President said he wanted close attention paid to people’s safety and security and smooth cooperation between emergency services.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the bulk of the preparations had been completed already and now it is necessary to draw attention to shortcomings. “I am interested in everything, starting with the creation of the necessary sport, transport, and hotel infrastructure, the organization of volunteer work and ending with the training of the national team for the successful performance at the world championship. We still have time, we can fix a lot, we can revise things if something is not the way we would like it to be,” he said.

“The event should be a memorable one and a milestone for Minsk,” the head of state remarked.

According to Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Anatoly Tozik, the International Ice Hockey Federation conducted three inspections which showed that Belarus fulfills all the 2014 IIHF World Championship requirements timely and in full.

In his words, one of the key organizing moments in hosting the championship is visa-free entry for official participants and foreign tourists. For visa-free entry, tourists will only have to present original or electronic tickets which can be bought in any place via the Internet.

Ticket sales were launched on 30 September. According to Anatoly Tozik, a total of 1,386 event tickets and 22,500 single game tickets out of almost 700,000 have been sold already. They are some 30% cheaper than tickets for championships hosted by other countries.

The world championship will be held at two ice arenas: Minsk Arena and Chizhovka Arena.

The organizing committee tasked with the preparations for and hosting the IIHF World Championship has worked out issues related to safety measures at the arenas and other places, border and customs clearance.

The official travel partner of the 2014 IIHF World Championship, the Belarusian state-run company CentrKurort, has developed a number of travel packages, including game tickets, accommodation as well as additional services (excursions, transfers, catering, souvenirs).

Belarusian companies have launched the manufacture of souvenir products with the 2014 IIHF World Championship logo, which are today available in almost every region of the country.

The work is also conducted with volunteers. The intention to be volunteers has been voiced so far by 3,000 people; the majority of them are students of Belarusian universities learning foreign languages. Besides, up to 190 students of the Belarusian State Medical University will take part of ambulance crews with work in first-aid stations at the arenas and places of staying of the participants of the championship.

As far as the accommodation for guests and participants of the championship is concerned, visitors will be offered 29 operating hotels, 14 hotels which construction is nearing completion, 10 hostels and five dormitories in the student village. The private sector is also expected to take an active part in offering accommodation to tourists.

There are also plans to create extra 5,000 seats in public catering points by the end of the year. Street cafes for more than 20,000 people will open in Minsk downtown and on the territory close to the arenas during the world championship. There will be also organized a town of artisans where people from across the country will be able to offer their goods.

According to Anatoly Tozik, there are no serious drawbacks which can badly affect the quality of hosting the world championship.

Minsk Mayor Nikolai Ladutko remarked that the first phase of Chizhovka Arena will be complete by 7 November while the entire facility will be commissioned by 15 December. In his words, the bulk of the work has been done and construction workers are about to complete finishing the facade of the building. Skate and ice rentals will be available in the small arena as from 9 November. The general public will also be able to access the multipurpose hall then, too.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was extremely displeased by the delayed commissioning of Chizhovka Arena: “Three times you have promised me that you will get the facility commissioned by 7 November and have failed to fulfill your own promises! We have already moved the deadline! And you have come up with some staged commissioning! You are free to open the facility in three or five steps, whatever, but construction workers had to leave the place by 7 November”.

Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation Yevgeny Vorsin said that all the technical requirements for hosting games of the world ice hockey championship were agreed during an inspection visit of representatives of the International Ice Hockey Federation in August. The foreign experts believe that Minsk Arena meets the highest international standards.

The operation of all departments and the technological equipment of Chizhovka Arena will be tested during the Christmas Ice Hockey Tournament for the prize of the Belarus President and during the national ice hockey tournament Golden Puck for the prize of the head of state. The tournaments will be held in conditions similar to those of the world ice hockey championship.

According to Yevgeny Vorsin, since June 2013 the national ice hockey team has been led by Canadian specialist Glen Hanlon with assistants, Belarusian coaches, Eduard Zankovets and Oleg Mikulchik. The coaching staff has developed a training plan, comprised an expanded roster of 45 players. Four of them play in the North American hockey league, 28 – in the Kontinental Hockey League, including 16 making part of KHL’s Dinamo Minsk, four – the Supreme League of the Russian Ice Hockey Championship, and nine being first-timers. Yevgeny Vorsin stressed that all the athletes are determined to represent the national team. In his words, some six months will be spent on four stages of training camps. “The main task of this phase is to mobilize players and pull the team together,” he said. The coaching staff and the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation believe that the task for Team Belarus to reach the IIHF World Championship quarterfinal in 2014 is difficult but achievable.

The head of state demanded to create a team of the best players.

Aleksandr Lukashenko warned sports officials regarding the organization of work at Belarusian hockey clubs in general: “We should put things in order. Money should go to those who bring results.”