Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Lithuania offers to replace Belarus as hockey worlds co-host

Tournament scheduled to run May 21 to June 6

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania offered to replace ousted Belarus as co-host of this year’s hockey world championships on Thursday.

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonyte “discussed Lithuania’s determination” to co-host the tournament with neighbouring Latvia in a call with International Ice Hockey Federation president René Fasel, the Baltic nation’s government said.

Fasel was a long-time supporter of Belarus continuing as co-host until accepting it had to change plans in fallout from the disputed re-election last year of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. Sponsors had told the IIHF they would withdraw if Belarus was retained.

Lithuania’s government said the decision “should have been done earlier” to move the tournament.

“Logistically, organizing the tournament in the neighbouring countries would also be much more convenient under the conditions of the pandemic,” Šimonyte said.

Lithuania, which has not qualified for the men’s championship, offered the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas for the tournament, which is scheduled to run from May 21 to June 6.

By The Associated Press

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