September 17 - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has today warned the organisers of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship set to take place in Minsk to insure themselves against the threat of a boycott.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, issued a decree telling the local Organising Committee to insure itself "against the possibility of cancellation, boycott or postponement".
His comments follow a move by the European Parliament, which urged the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to consider moving the showpiece event to another host nation in protest against Belarus' poor human rights record and its treatment of opposition activists, many of whom have become political prisoners.
Despite receiving a winning 75 votes in the race to host the 2014 IIHF World Championship, the selection of Belarus as host nation sparked controversy, with United States Senator Dick Durbin and representative Michael Quigley calling on the IIHF to move the tournament to another location because of concerns over Lukashenko's authoritarian Government.
The IIHF subsequently explained that its statutes do not allow it to discriminate on political grounds, while officials from the Latvian and Lithuanian ice hockey federations both insisted that they have no desire for "mixing politics with sports".
Lukashenko has overseen the construction of 30 ice hockey stadiums in Belarus, with this number expected to grow to 50 before the World Championship in May next year, as part of the €11.4 million (£9.7 million/$15.2 million) budget for the event.
Last year he dismissed the threat of a Western boycott as "pure politicking".
"This is a purely politicised process, and it has nothing to do with sports," Lukashenko insisted.
"And if this happens, this will be a blow to the world hockey federation's image.
"Belarus deserves this championship."
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August 2009: Belarus to host 2014 World Ice Hockey Championships