Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session of Belarus’Security Council

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The ice hockey world championship that will take place in Minsk in May 2014 should be secure without inconveniencing the guests. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement at the session of the Security Council of Belarus on 8 April.

Opening the session of the Security Council, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that they were going to discuss the readiness to host the ice hockey world championship and the lessons and tasks originating from the current situation, primarily in view of the Ukrainian events. “I would like to say right away: we are not afraid of anything. I do not see any fear in the eyes and faces of the Security Council members,” the President said. “These are planned matters. As far as Ukraine is concerned, we should discuss the developments. We have already talked about it and I have emphasized that only fools can fail to make conclusions from the events going on around us”. Aleksandr Lukashenko added that the problem had been discussed many times and there had been an agreement to revise it at a session of the Security Council in order to possibly extract lessons and relevant conclusions.

Aleksandr Lukashenko prioritized the hosting of the ice hockey world championship and the security of the event although there are no particular security-related concerns. The President mentioned what was going to be discussed, what had been done, and what things still required attention.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized the importance of the championship for Belarus. “It will be a great event as far as scale and importance are concerned. A true sport celebration both for the Belarusian people and for millions of ice hockey fans around the globe,” the head of state said.

The President noted that this kind of competitions has always had a political subtext. “Sport became part of politics a long time ago. And often, or I would say in most of the cases, this politics is unscrupulous and dirty,” the head of state believes.

“We should not forget that there are a lot of speculations over this championship, starting from the calls of our opposition, the so-called fifth column, to boycott the competition, up to the attempts of foreign ill-wishers to blackmail us,” the President reminded. “Individual western politicians tried to make drama over the world championship in Minsk to their own advantage. They used the most sophisticated ways of information pressure. Instead of an objective analysis of the situation in Belarus they prefer to get information from extremely biased sources and make far-fetched complaints and political demands,” he added.

“Fortunately, political experts in the West are realizing, although belatedly, that they have exhausted their reserves to pressurize Belarus. We can hear calls to work out new approaches and positions,” the head of state said.

In his words, the support of international sports organizations is particularly important for Belarus in this environment. Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that despite the tough pressure on the part of individual European organizations and politicians, the International Ice Hockey Federation and Rene Fasel personally did not back down, did not compromise their values. “It takes courage. It is not that easy to withstand such a pressure when you live in the West,” the President remarked.

He pointed out that the organization of the Minsk championship will invariably be compared with previous world championships.

“We just have to show the best in us before the global community,” the President stressed. “I am confident that we will be able to demonstrate a high degree of organization of the ice hockey world championship and to prove to everyone that we are indeed a civilized state in the center of Europe. After visiting Belarus people should remember the welcoming and well-wishing nature of the Belarusians,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the guests should enjoy a comfortable stay in Belarus while the services rendered should be able to satisfy the most exacting customers. “In addition to being a landmark event that will last in the memory of our nation, the championship should give another impetus to the development of mass sports particularly after the successful performance of Belarusian athletes in Sochi,” the President said.

“As the organizers we must secure the safety of participants and guests. We cannot let any provocations happen. At the same time the security measures must be unobtrusive. They should not create pressure on participants and guests of the championship as well as reporters,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested discussing the main aspects of the ice hockey world championship in detail while focusing on existing problems and proposals to fix them fast because very little time is left. The President stressed that on the whole, Belarus is ready for the ice hockey world championship. If something yet needs attention, it will be done within the month that is still available, said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “Security is the key matter. Although a lot has been done already, the matter is still important. Any shortcoming can smear all we have done,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich informed the President about the progress in the preparation for the world championship. “Experts say that Minsk Arena and Chizhovka Arena are among the best sports grounds in Europe. They are ready to host the championship,” he said.

All the 16 countries have confirmed they will participate in the ice hockey world championship in Minsk. The championship will gather teams from Sweden, Czechia, Canada, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, France, Italy, Finland, Russia, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. “Olympic, truly sporting principles have triumphed over short-lived considerations and non-constructive appeals,” noted Mikhail Myasnikovich noted.

The first match that will take place in Minsk Arena on 9 May will feature the Belarusian team and the American team. All the tickets for the game have been sold.

According to the Prime Minister, a special focus has been placed on the ticket program of the world sport forum. The experience, including negative one, of other countries that hosted similar championships has been taken into account. The pricing policy has been formed to provide people with different income an opportunity to attend matches. Thus, prices for the qualification round games range from €6 to €50. Tickets for the final stage will cost €25-400.

As of 7 April 2014, an estimated 354,000 tickets were bought and booked on Minsk Arena (75% of the capacity) and a total of 142,000 tickets were purchased and booked on Chizhovka Arena (67%). An estimated 70,500 tickets have been sold to foreign fans. The bulk of tickets were sold to Russia and Latvia. Quite a big interest is also shown by fans from Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia. These countries have so far purchased more than 2,000-3,000 tickets apiece.

According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, tickets for low-rating games will be sold to labor collectives and students. “Ticket sales with discounts for children and young people an international practice,” he said.

All issues regarding the visa-free entry for guests and participants of the championship have been addressed. There have been defined 15 main border checkpoints, with each of them providing a green channel. Border checkpoints have been staffed with specialists knowing foreign languages.

Decisions have been made to make Minsk as attractive for tourists as possible. In particular, prices for hospitality services have been frozen while the number of hotel rooms has been more than doubled. During the championship a total of 43 hotels will operate. They will be able to offer accommodation to 9,725 visitors. “Fourteen hotels have been planned for commissioning for the championship. Twelve of them were commissioned as of 31 March. Four are already fully operational while rooms can be booked in the other ones. The Renaissance Hotel will be commissioned by 14 April. The Beijing Hotel will be commissioned by 29 April. All the hotels meet the established standards. Personnel for the hotels have been hired on a competitive basis,” the Prime Minister said.

Apart from that, five halls of residence in the StudentVillage will be able to offer accommodation to over 5,000 guests. All the matters concerning the relocation of students without interrupting their studies for the duration of the ice hockey world championship have been addressed. Sanatoriums and hotels in Minsk that can offer accommodation to 2,100 people are on standby.

A great number of public catering facilities will be available in Minsk during the ice hockey world championship. These new cafes will have more than 20,000 seats in addition to the existing 75,000 seats. Special easy-on-the-pocket menus will be developed.

Two fan zones will be set up near Minsk Arena and Chizhovka Arena. Three hospitality zones will also be available. They will be located near the Palace of Sports on Pobeditelei Avenue, the MinskIcePalace in Pritytskogo Street and the Student Village Complex. “These zones will offer quality entertainment, concert programs, dancing and other events,” the Premier noted.

Arts and crafts fairs will be open near the Palace of Sports from 11:00 to 23:00 during the two weeks of the championship. Tourists will be able to visit the most popular theaters, movie theaters, museums, exhibition halls. The working hours of all cultural facilities will be extended.

“Considerable investments in infrastructure and other facilities allowed creating over 2,000 new jobs. The investments also helped make improvements in retail trade, public catering, consumer services, hospitality business, and transportation. All this was done not only as part of the preparations for the world championship, but also to improve the quality of life of local residents. The effort is expected to generate additional dividends for our country,” the Prime Minister stressed.

Mikhail Myasnikovich expressed confidence that the ice hockey world championship will be conducted on a very high level. The findings of the recent inspection by the International Ice Hockey Federation (1-4 April) are very encouraging.

The political situation in Ukraine and its influence on the state of the national security of Belarus were discussed at the session.

It was noted that the Ukrainian events represent no direct threat for the Republic of Belarus. Belarus is interested in seeing civil peace, tranquility and stability established in Ukraine.

During the session it was noted that Belarus does not aspire for the leading position in the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict, however, Belarus will do its best to preserve and bolster relations with the brotherly nation.