Puck — in the play!
Alexander Lukashenko took part in the official opening ceremony of the tournament
Addressing the participants, spectators and guests of the World Championship, the President particularly noted:
On behalf of the Belarusian nation let me heartily welcome the entrants and organisers of the Ice Hockey World Championship. I congratulate all fans of this exciting game on the opening of the world sport forum.
We’ve been working for five years to bring about this event. The championship has indeed become the largest national project. The entire country has taken an active part in preparing and implementing the project. We are sincerely glad to welcome this tournament in our country and hold a wonderful holiday to hockey amateurs.
Newly constructed sport arenas meet the highest international standards. Moreover, massive efforts have been put into accommodation for the comfortable recreation of the residents and guests of our capital. “In other words, everything has been done to make the World Championship in Minsk vivid, remarkable and the best in the world.
I won’t conceal that we’ve had to overcome a lot of difficulties: blackmail, political pressure on the part of certain forces, which are prejudiced towards Belarus. Fortunately, sound sense and respect for sport values have prevailed. Players, who are legends and stars on the global scale, have come to us as part of the world’s strongest ice hockey teams.
I’m convinced that representatives of the ice hockey federations, players of the teams, and fans will properly appreciate everything they see here. The sport infrastructure that has been created over the years will help increase the number of people, who go in for sports, and will help improve the health of Belarusians. Moreover, we’ve gained invaluable experience of organising such large-scale sport events…
I wish you all health, happiness and vivid impressions from the championship. I also wish ice hockey teams successful matches.
Today is a special day for us — Victory Day. In this respect, I’d like to remind that in that fierce war we fought together with the United States of America, we were on the same side. We fought together against the brown plague, against Nazism. However, today, we will be divided by the red line on this piece of ice. I pray to God that we are separated by lines only in sport…
May Minsk lives and breathes hockey. On Thursday, the anticipation of this great sport holiday was already felt in the air, making our hearts beat more excitedly. Fans were arriving in the city from all corners of the world, while the squads were settling down and testing the ice. Crowds of journalists were seen near the Minsk-Arena and Chizhovka-Arena and foreign speech was heard everywhere. Faces were lighting with smiles while words were expressing hope. Before the start, everyone is equal and each was dreaming that their team will at least fulfil the minimum task and, of course, will try to do everything to reach the medals.
The first official event which gave the preliminary signal for the tournament was the flag-raising ceremony of the participating counties. The State Flag Square has brought together many landmark figures: from Belarus’ Prime Minister, who heads the tournament’s organising committee, Mikhail Myasnikovich, to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Renй Fasel. Of course, the latter was in the limelight of journalists and didn’t refuse to answer questions. The face of the Swiss was smiling broadly — he was definitely pleased with the way Minsk has prepared for the championship. “We’ve talked to the squads and, judging by their impressions, they’re pleased with everything. The ice arenas are well equipped and the sportsmen are pleased with the training sites,” noted Mr. Fasel.
Nevertheless, the head of the international federation was also asked about sporting components of the championship. Mr. Fasel met any attacks on his ‘goals’ with diplomatic easiness:
Favourites of the championship? Each year, about six or more squads lay claims to victory. However, no one knows who will win. On Tuesday I attended the control match of the national squads of Switzerland and Canada and saw with my own eyes how strong the young Canadian team is. They appeared on the ice almost from the place and beaten the Swiss in all points. I’m convinced that the national team of Russia is also going to show better result than it did in Sochi and will make everything for this.
What about the national team of Belarus?
Home matches of the championship often make surprises. I know that your team has brought together its best hockey players for the first time over a long period. However, it’s very difficult to play at home, as there’s big pressure from the side of fans and press. Big expectations often hinder. Nevertheless, I think that Belarusians will cope with this. My forecast is that the national squad of Belarus will show a good result and will perform both in the quarterfinal and the semifinal.
I know it from my personal experience that the first impression of the new country is the strongest and, as a rule, the most correct. Therefore, it’s very pleasant to hear only positive feedbacks from foreign journalists about Minsk and the organisation of the championship. Guests enjoy almost everything: clean green streets, a cosy centre, lots of cafes for every taste and pocket, the architecture of Minsk, affordable prices, and stylish drivers of the public transport, alongside cheerful fan zones and Petrovich the Giant Crab foretelling the results. The guests also like polite taxi drivers who always use taxi meters and even give a cheque after the trip, new hotels, benevolence of the law enforcement services, hospitality of Minskers and, of course, the scale of the tournament and arenas. Many are sincerely surprised at such abundance of positive emotions; they haven’t expected that Minsk is such a delicate and contemporary city.
Belarus has very substantially prepared for the World Championship. We could only hope that hockey players won’t lose their faces either.