March 1 - International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel (pictured) has claimed that there are currently no plans in place to move the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championships from Minsk, Belarus, despite reports that the competition will be reallocated because of human rights issues in the city.
A number of leading nations, including the United States, have said publically that they are "deeply concerned about serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus" with opponents of the country's President Alexander Lukashenko having been harshly persecuted.
But Fasel, a Swiss dentist who sits on the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board, said that his organisation are not looking to take the competition to another city.
"We discussed this issue at a meeting of our Board," said Fasel, who has been IIHF President since 1994.
"We decided to go to Belarus in 2014, so the Championships will be held in Belarus.
"We are away from political discussions."
Minsk were awarded the event back in May 2009 after they comfortably held off three rival bids from Hungary, Latvia and Ukraine at the IIHF Congress in Bern.
The Belarusian capital has since been preparing to stage the competition at two main venues which are the Minsk-Arena and the Chizhovka-Arena with Yawhen Vorsin, the chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation admitting that he is growing tired of talk about the event moving elsewhere.
"No decision has been made to discuss the cancellation of the Championship," he stressed.
"When the international federation's President [Fasel] makes a public statement that the 2014 World Championship will take place in Belarus, they either don't hear or don't want to hear him.
"Some people who know nothing about sport and are not involved in it are simply stirring up the situation."
Prominent Belarusian and foreign politicians, human rights defenders and other figures have repeatedly urged the IIHF to move the Championship to a different country in protest Lukashenka's widespread human rights abuse in Belarus.
But Lukashenko (pictured), who is known for his love for ice hockey, admitted that the event will give a major boost for the country.
"This is a big economic victory," he said after Belarus were awarded the event.
"Dozens of thousands of tourists will come to us from all countries of the world.
"Let's speak frankly.
"Those will not be poor people, but well-to-do people, and we should make serious preparations for providing those people with a wide range of services for their money.
"This is a very good economic impetus to the development of not only our Minsk but also the entire Belarusian economy."
Belarus previously lost two bids for the World Championships, to Germany in 2005 and to Sweden two years later but now that they have the event, authorities plan to build 22 new hotels in Minsk and renovate 15 of the existing 28 hotels before the competition.
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