GOMEL, 26 November (BelTA) - Sport must prevail over ‘dirty' politics, Vitaly Utkin, a member of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, the chairman of the Gomel Regional Ice Hockey Federation, said during a ceremony to sign the address to support Belarus as the host of the 2021 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship to President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretiak, BelTA has learned.
Novice and experienced hockey players, retired athletes, hockey fans gathered in the Gomel Ice Palace to protest against relocating the 84th IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship from Belarus.
“Our country loves hockey, and we need to defend our right to host the World Championship in the face of ‘dirty' politics that it has encountered,” Vitaly Utkin is convinced. According to him, there are many examples in history when hostilities and strife stopped during the Olympic Games. "Let sport win now, let's hockey win. May riots and ‘dirty' politics leave the streets of our cities,” the MP said.
The address notes that Belarus is an independent state, and only Belarus and the IIHF should decide where and how to hold the World Championship: “Our country should not be deprived of the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship because of the negative emotional opinion created through an information war of sorts. Our opponents are speculating, fanning tensions around the the hockey situation.”
“There is an excellent Olympic principle - sport and politics don't mix. Based on it, we are sure that hockey will not benefit from the things suggested by various politicians. Sport should not be used as a lever of pressure by external forces,” the address reads.
Vitaly Utkin added that the date to sign the document was not random. “77 years ago, on 26 November, Gomel was liberated from the Nazis. We, the descendants of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers who won the Victory, will now be defending our right to host the championship at the international level,” he said.
The address was signed by Gomel sports community. According to Vitaly Utkin, a mechanism will be developed to enable every stakeholder to join the initiative. The address will be sent to President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretiak with a request to ask President of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasel not to relocate the 2021 IIHF World Championship from Belarus.
Among the signatories was coach of HC Gomel Vyacheslav Zverev. He emphasized that Belarus is a successor of the Soviet ice hockey school, and Belarusian ice hockey players compete internationally. “Ice hockey has made great progress during the years of Belarus' independence. Modern sport centers and facilities with well-developed infrastructure have been built in the country to help both professional clubs and amateur groups hone their skills. Children's sport schools have been opened as well. The 2014 IIHF World Championship showed that Belarus is able to host competitions of the highest level,” the coach stressed.
Captain of HC Gomel 2005 Matvei Romanyuk also believes that Belarus should defend its right to host the 2021 IIHF World Championship. “It is absolutely wrong to mix sport with politics. Belarus should host this championship. It is very important for the country,” the young hockey player said.