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Latvia alone to host ice hockey tournament

The 2021 men’s ice hockey world championship will be held in Latvia alone after Belarus was stripped of the right to co-host the tournament, the International Ice Hockey Federation has announced.

Safety concerns over political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic in Belarus and sponsors threatening to pull out if the tournament prompted the sport’s governing body to strip the country of co-hosting rights last month.

Denmark and Slovakia were willing to co-host the event but the IIHF decided it was best to keep all teams in Latvian capital Riga throughout the May 21-June 6 tournament and avoid travel between countries.

“I would like to thank our members from Denmark and Slovakia for their willingness to assume hosting duties,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement on Tuesday.

“But ultimately the council believes that keeping the whole tournament in one country allows us to be flexible.”

Calls for Belarus to be stripped of the event had gathered steam among members of the Belarusian opposition because of President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters opposing his re-election.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Lukashenko, an avid hockey fan and player, from the Olympic Games.

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