EP calls for suspension of the 2014 Ice hockey WC in Belarus

Protests in the streets of Minsk on election night 19 December 2010. Photo by Flickr user mb7art used under a Creative Commons License 2.0


By Stine Alvad
President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek has issued a call to deprive Belarus of the right to host the 2014 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships until political prisoners have been released from Belarusian prisons.
President of the European Parliament (EP), Jerzy Buzek has issued a call to deprive Belarus of the right to host the 2014 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships until political prisoners have been released from Belarusian prisons. The call is signed by the President and other members of the parliament on May 12 2011 and states:

"The behaviour of the Belarusian regime clearly disqualifies it from the privilege of holding a major sporting event such as the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship.
We urge the International Hockey Federation to take appropriate action to ensure that Lukashenko does not receive the international reward or legitimacy which comes with hosting the 2014 Ice Hockey Championship until he releases all political prisoners. Belarus has been ruled by the brutal and undemocratic Lukashenko regime for almost two decades. The EU and the US have strongly condemned Lukashenko's actions. His regime arrested hundreds of peaceful demonstrators including presidential candidates, opposition leaders, journalists, civil society representatives as well as ordinary Belarusians. The 2014 ice hockey championships cannot be held in Belarus under these appalling conditions." Things have changed since hosting was awarded
In spite of heavy critique from election observers, Lukashenko won the Belarusian presidential elections held in December last year with a sweeping 80%. After the election results went public, as many as 30.000 people went on the streets to demonstrate against the outcome.  

Several hundreds of the demonstrators were arrested by Belarusian KGB and riot police including seven of the nine opposing candidates. On 15 May 2011, opposition leader Andrei Sannikov was charged for publically protesting and sentenced to five years in jail. Former hockey player and now EP deputy Peter Stastny says the situation in Belarus has changed significantly since the country was awarded the 2014 championships.

"The fact that more than 600 people were brutally beaten and jailed merely for their attempt to express their political viewpoint has changed many things," Stastny said according to Radio Free Europe. EP Call is "odd"
When asked by a journalist what he thought about the EP Call, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh said: “That’s an odd behaviour. Mr Buzek must be aware that sports are beyond politics from the times of Ancient Greece. Historical experience shows that digressions from the time-tested principle raise only problems and usually for their initiators,” the answer reads on the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website and continues: “Since sports are beyond politics, Mr Buzek’s actions target millions of ice hockey fans and the country as a whole.”
Alexander Lukashenko, who is often dubbed ‘Europe’s last dictator’, is very fond of sports and hockey in particular, and has on several occasions been said to use sport as a propaganda tool. In 2008 the European Olympic Committee (EOC) gave him an award “For Outstanding Contribution to the Olympic Movement”.
More info: The Call from the European Parliament Article from Radio Free Europe Article on EOC's award to Lukashenko

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