To Minsk & Riga in 2021!

Joint bid wins, Finland gets 2022 Worlds

19.05.2017
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Minsk Arena Minsk  Belarus

Minsk Arena will be the main venue of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, co-hosted with Riga. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

The 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will take place in Minsk and Riga. This was decided by the 2017 IIHF Annual Congress today.

After a tight race between two strong applicants the 2017 IIHF Annual Congress allocated the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship to the joint bid of Minsk, Belarus, and Riga, Latvia.

The joint bid of the two neighbouring countries won by a very tight margin against the Finnish bid with the cities of Tampere and Helsinki. The proposed dates are 7-23 May 2021.

Following a lunch break, Finland with its bid for Tampere and Helsinki confirmed that it would be ready to host the event also in 2022. After consulting other top-division teams whether there would be potential applicants to run for 2022 against Finland, it was decided to propose having the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere and Helsinki, which was unanimously approved by the 2017 IIHF Annual Congress.

Belarus and Latvia convinced with “Passion. No Borders”

Belarus and Latvia decided a few months to join together for the bid with the slogan “Passion. No Borders” that seeks to show a good relationship between a country in and another outside of the European Union, which they symbolically did at yesterday’s presentation with a video sequence from a space shuttle, and without borders. And it emphasized that the passion of the hockey fans from both countries is well known despite the fact that the two countries are neither among the biggest ones in population in Europe nor among the very top nations in the World Ranking. Belarus will be ranked 10th in the new IIHF World Ranking, Latvia 12th.

Minsk is the Belarusian capital, with almost two million inhabitants and 3.4 million in the region. In 2014 it broke the World Championship attendance record that was reclaimed by the Czechs in 2015. For 2021 the 15,086-seat Minsk Arena, with two practice rinks on site, would be used as the primary venue.

Minsk is the cultural centre of Belarus with numerous events and activities. The bid presentation recalled the great atmosphere of 2014, with its downtown fan village and fan zone as well as the convenience of Minsk Arena being just 15 minutes from the city centre and the airport.

“We learned a lot from organizing the 2006 World Championship in Riga and the 2014 World Championship in Minsk and with that experience can make things even better in 2021,” said Belarusian Ice Hockey Association General Secretary Yaraslau Zauharodni.

Riga, Latvia’s capital, is just a one-hour flight away. It has 640,000 inhabitants and 1.4 million people living in a 100-kilometre radius. Latvia is renowned for its passionate fans travelling to World Championships all around the world, and the country hopes to recreate the great atmosphere of 2006 when the 10,300-seat Arena Riga was opened to host the Worlds. And they promise that a new practice arena will be built next to it.

“I truly believe in a Europe with no borders and with passion. It would be a fantastic experience to show that Europe is about passion, not about borders. I truly believe in social responsibility. And that also means the prices for fans. They will not have to pay a lot. It’s just €2.20 for a beer and in Minsk it’s even cheaper,” said Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs in his speech. And Minsk Mayor Andrei Shorets added that in Minsk it’s even less, just one euro.

New LHF President Aigars Kalvitis remembers the 2006 Worlds in Riga well. At that time he was the Prime Minister.

“Hockey is loved so much in our country and we are thankful that our Belarusians friends invited us. In Cologne we had at least 7,000 to 8,000 Latvian fans who supported the team. We hope with this championship we will develop hockey in the region,” he said.

Both arenas were opened to host the first-ever World Championship in each county, the Arena Riga for the 2006 Worlds and the Minsk Arena for the 2014 edition. The two venues also hosted the Final Olympic Qualification stages in 2016 as well as World Championships in the U20, U18 and women’s categories and the IIHF Continental Cup. They are currently mainly used by the local KHL teams, Dynamo Minsk and Dinamo Riga. Dynamo Minsk has the highest attendance in the KHL and the second best in Europe.

“Ice hockey is number one in our countries. You would give us the biggest honour possible and the greatest event our countries can host,” said IIHF Council Member and BIHA Vice President Sergej Gontcharov.

Finland hosts in 2022 with new Tampere Arena

“Representing Finland, especially as a captain, it was the biggest honour for me to play twice at home in front of our fans. It was an overwhelming feeling when the whole country is behind you,” Saku Koivu said when he took stage during yesterday’s presentation. For him and the Finnish applicants there was a happy end as the bid of Tampere and Helsinki got the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

“Hockey is a big part of the Finnish way of life and I can guarantee you that the fans will create a great atmosphere not only for the Finnish games but for the whole tournament. We may not be big talkers, but when we do it, we do it well.”

Finland’s capital Helsinki and Tampere, touted Finland’s hockey capital with its long history and two top-league teams, are the bid cities. A new arena in Tampere would serve as the main venue.

Tampere hosted the first World Championship in the country in 1965. The old Hakametsa rink in Tampere also hosted the Worlds in 1982, 1991, 1997 and 2003. But in the near future the teams will move to a new building in the heart of the city.

“It’s a brand-new, world-class ice hockey arena with the best possible circumstances and experience,” Finnish Ice Hockey Association President Harri Nummela told the delegates. “Finland is one of the safest and most stable countries in the world. We can offer a great atmosphere to participate for the greatest sport on earth.”

Tampere is one of the largest cities in Finland with a population of 225,000 in the city and almost a million within a 100-km radius. Its city centre is compact with the arena and hotels in walking distance. The new 13,500-seat Tampere Arena is scheduled to open in 2020 as the most modern multi-purpose arena in Northern Europe. It’s an ambitious project that has been in the planning phase for a long time and construction work is set to begin this year. The arena will be conveniently located in the city centre next to Tampere’s central railway and bus station. The facility will include 12 dressing rooms and a second ice pad. Click here for a presentation of the project.

“It was my dream for ten years to have this fourth-generation arena in Tampere and finish my career with this arena in the city that is very dear to me,” said IIHF Vice President and former Finnish Ice Hockey Association President Kalervo Kummola in his address.

With Tampere, a centrally-located city, serving as the main venue, the Finns hope to make the World Championship accessible to more people in Finland than in previous tournaments that were played exclusively in Helsinki. Just 170 kilometres separate the cities or one-and-a-half hours by car or train.

Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena will serve as the second venue. The capital city has almost 630,000 inhabitants (1.85 million in the region) and the 13,431-seat Hartwall Arena has most recently hosted the World Championships in 2012 and 2013 (co-hosted with Stockholm, Sweden) as well as the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship that set a European attendance record in that category. Helsinki was also a World Championship host in 1974, 1982, 1991, 1997 and 2003.

Like the new arena in Tampere, the Hartwall Arena has a practice arena in the same building. The arena is located 15 minutes from the city centre and was opened in 1997.

The upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships:
2018: Copenhagen & Herning (Denmark) – Website
2019: Bratislava & Kosice (Slovakia)
2020: Zurich & Lausanne (Switzerland)
2021: Minsk (Belarus) & Riga (Latvia)
2022: Tampere & Helsinki (Finland)

MARTIN MERK

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