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MAJOR SPONSOR VOWS TO WITHDRAW FROM WORLD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS; APPEARS TOURNAMENT WILL BE MOVED

The International Ice Hockey Federation is facing some major push back in its attempt to hold the 2021 World Hockey Championships partly in Belarus. SKODA Auto, a Czech automobile manufacturer and very recognizable name at international hockey tournaments, has released a statement saying it will withdraw its sponsorship from the World Championships after close to three decades.

"We've been a proud partner to the IIHF Hockey World Championship for 28 years," said the company on its official Twitter account. "But we also respect and promote all human rights. Therefore, SKODA will withdraw from sponsoring the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship if Belarus is confirmed to be co-hosting the event."


SKODA's statement received almost uniformly positive feedback on Twitter, with most respondents thanking them for taking a stand. The controversy stems from the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in a clearly rigged vote and the crackdown in protestors in the aftermath. Thousands have been beaten and jailed by local police forces.

It appears the pressure from SKODA and others is working. According to the Swiss media outlet Watson.ch, the IIHF will meet via conference call Monday and is expected to announce the withdrawal of the Championships from Belarus. The article states three other locations are in the running, Denmark, another city in Latvia and Bratislava in Slovakia.

The 2021 IIHF World Championship had been set to be co-hosted by Minsk, Belarus and Riga, Latvia, from May 21st to June 6th. In November 2020, Dzmitry Baskau, the president of the Belarus Ice Hockey Federation, was linked to death of protestor Raman Bandarenka. On November 16, 2020 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia imposed a travel ban against Baskau "for an unspecified period" because of his alleged involvement in the killing of Bandarenka. At the time, René Fasel, president of the IIHF, had stated "We will do everything possible for the world championship to take place in Minsk. We will make every effort."

TIM TUCKER
JANUARY 16, 2021  (10H20)
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