Showing hockey from its best side

The IIHF World Championship is being hosted by Minsk in less than 500 days, bringing discussion of finer details
By Konstantin Semakov

The release date for tickets has been decided, alongside ways of making guests feel especially welcome, notes the Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, Yevgeny Vorsin, who heads the directorate for the world championship. He opened a recent conference by saying, “This will be the best championship of recent years as regards its organisation; nobody else has prepared as meticulously as we are doing.”

The conference was delayed in opening by half an hour, as one of the key participants was stuck in traffic: hardly a positive start. However, once the meeting was underway, any doubts faded, leaving all present to believe that the organisation will be the best yet, due to meticulous attention to detail.

Mr. Vorsin’s assertions are more than mere words, prompted by the desire to promote Minsk and Belarus to tourists for many years to come. The immediate revenue generated from the ice hockey tournament is secondary to this longer-term target. Mr. Vorsin emphasised that rumours regarding the championship being moved elsewhere are without foundation. “During a recent IIHF Congress, not a single delegate doubted the feasibility of Belarus’ hosting of the event. The issue is no longer on the agenda — and will never return,” he stresses.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has sent three commissions to conduct inspections. All, including the last (in November), noted that work had been completed ahead of schedule. Accommodation for tourists and officials has been a key issue, since around 100,000 are expected to arrive for the event. Comfortable yet inexpensive hotels are required. To avoid a repeat of what happened during Ukraine’s hosting of the European Football Championship, prices are to be tightly monitored to avoid artificial hikes; hotels will be prohibited from raising prices by more than 10 percent during the IIHF World Championship. Minsk can currently accommodate around 20,000, with guests welcomed by the Students’ Village and university hostels, as well as traditional hotels. The academic year of 2014 is to be cut by a month or so to free up student accommodation.

Tickets are to go on sale worldwide next September, for individual matches and packages. Those planning to attend need only their ticket and passport, as visas for sports-fans are to be abolished — an unprecedented move. A standard tourist package will include a ticket, accommodation (ranging from a five star hotel to simple hostel bed), an excursion and souvenirs. 

Work continues on improving roads and other infrastructure as well as catering options, while guides and taxi drivers are being encouraged to study foreign languages. One issue remains: the naming of the championship’s symbol — a small auroch. A contest is soon to be announced, inviting ideas. The winner will be awarded a worthy prize.
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