The IIHF and the Belarusian organizers wrapped up the World Championship so far and expect a new attendance record.
“We are very happy how the things are going here in Belarus. It’s beyond our expectations,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel. “We have many fans in the two arenas. We expect that we will have a new attendance record here in Minsk.”
He praised the enthusiasm from the fans here, not only from the Belarusians but also others like from Russia, Latvia and Slovakia who create a home-ice atmosphere for their teams. “The fans here are great fans for our sport and the players can feel that and are happy,” Fasel said.
He also praised the facilities in Minsk. “The arenas are fantastic, also the Chizhovka Arena. I was there in the Swedish dressing room. It looks fantastic. It’s 1,500 square metres.”
“Sochi was the best Winter Olympics I have taken part and if we continue like this here it will be the best World Championship with the numbers, with the organization and with the fans.”
Answering to a journalist why the IIHF holds its flagship event annually and also during Olympic years, Fasel responded: “It would be a big mistake not to be here. It also gives to opportunity for players who were not at the Olympics to play at the international stage. The numbers of spectators and on TV show that we have a winning system here.”
IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner presented the current attendance figures. 432,196 spectators have attended the 46 games so far with an average of 9,395 fans per game and a good crowd for each game. Minsk 2014 is on track to surpass the record set in 2004 in the Czech Republic with a total attendance of 552,097.
“The race is on. We are pretty sure this will be successful,” Lichtner said and also unveiled a possible TV audience record. “We have broadcasters for 150 countries and territories, that’s 30 more than last year. For the first time we expect a cumulated audience of bigger than one billion.”
Lichtner is impressed with what happened in Minsk in the five years since the 2009 IIHF Annual Congress awarded the hosting rights to Belarus.
“It’s the first World Championship at this level in this country and the Belarus Ice Hockey Association, the government and city had to start from zero. We had several site visits here with teams and we are really satisfied what has been done,” Lichtner said praising the facilities but also the outstanding World Championship themed decoration throughout Minsk from the airport to the centre and to the arenas.
“We had the promise for visa-free entry for all participants, journalists and fans holding a ticket. It was a very good step by the government to allow this and we are very happy with the execution. We have 75,000 tickets sold to people from outside of Belarus.
“We also get regular feedback from the teams and they are happy with the hotel conditions. Some of them were newly built before the World Championship. This and the arenas will be a wonderful legacy for the city of Minsk once we are gone next Monday.”
“Our country has many times hosted international competitions but this IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is a new experience for us. We knew we can succeed in organizing it and now we know we did,” said Yevgeni Vorsin, Director of the Organizing Committee and President of the Belarus Ice Hockey Association.
“The whole country worked hard to prepare Minsk for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. We can only succeed if we can create great conditions for players, participants and fans and we did it successfully. We are entering the final stage and we need to continue like this so everybody can be satisfied with the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.”
Other topics asked by journalists were the next World Championship to be awarded and the Olympic Winter Games in 2018.
“We have two interesting bids for 2018,” commented Fasel. “Denmark has never hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship before but has been a great host for other sporting events. And Latvia hosted in 2006 with their unbelievable fans who travel everywhere.”
The 2014 IIHF Annual Congress will decide about the two bids later this week. The next World Championships were awarded to Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic (2015), Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia (2016); and a co-hosted tournament in Cologne, Germany, and Paris, France, in 2017.
About the participation of NHL players in PyeongChang 2018 Fasel said: “It’s part of a whole system with the IIHF, the IOC, the NHL, the NHLPA, the organizer. We had great conditions for the players in Sochi. When [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman left he told me it was amazing. If they can do the same in PyeongChang I believe they will come.
“In the end it’s the players who will want to go and have to make the first decision. Our goal is to have best-on-best Olympics.”
Lichtner is positive the Koreans will deliver great conditions for the Olympics after a recent IOC Coordination Commission meeting. “We went to Korea three weeks ago. They’re building two new arenas for ice hockey and the experience for the players and for those who will go there will be very positive.”