Belarus’s president acknowledged on Tuesday Western countries might boycott the 2014 world ice hockey championships, which are due to be hosted in his country, telling organizers to insure themselves against possible cancellation or postponement.
The European Parliament has already urged the International Ice Hockey Federation to consider moving the games because of Belarus’s poor human rights record and its treatment of the opposition, many of whose leaders have been jailed.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet republic since 1994, issued a decree telling the championship’s national organizing committee to insure itself “against the possibility of cancellation, boycott or postponement”.
A big ice hockey fan and an amateur player himself, Lukashenko has overseen the construction of 30 ice hockey stadiums in Belarus and this number is expected to grow to 50 before the May championships next year.
In comments to parliament in May last year, he had defiantly dismissed talk of a Western boycott as “pure politicking ... nothing to do with sport” and said such threats only hurt the image of the world ice hockey federation.
He added that talk of a boycott was personally aimed at him as a big ice hockey fan. “But I’ll survive,” he said.