Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Official lauds International Ice Hockey Federation for ignoring calls for removing world championship from Belarus

Naviny.by

Belarus' top hockey official has praised the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for ignoring calls for removing the Ice Hockey World Championship from the country.

Speaking to reporters in Minsk on May 29, Yawhen Vorsin, chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, said that Belarus had managed to deliver a great world championship in part thanks to the IIHF's "firm stance."

The May 9-25 championship was available to a total TV audience of more than one billion people in 120 countries, said Mr. Vorsin. The tournament drew a total of 651,846 spectators, a record high attendance for a world hockey championship, he added.

Ahead of the championship, international human rights organizations and European Parliament members urged the IIHF to move the event to a different venue because of the persecution of opposition activists and the country's poor human rights record.

The IIHF rejected the calls, with IIHF President Rene Fasel saying that "sport cannot and should not be a political tool."

Speaking earlier this month, Mr. Fasel also denied his responsibility for the Belarusian government's crackdown on political opponents that left dozens of activists in jail during the championship.

The government began its crackdown on dissent ahead of the championship by jailing dozens of opposition activists in an effort to prevent street protests from taking place during the event.

Many drug addicts, prostitutes and homeless people were also jailed as part of the government's campaign to show a Minsk free from dissent and vice to the world, according to human rights defenders.