The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has confirmed Finland and Latvia as new hosts for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship that was stripped from Russia because of the war in Ukraine.
According to the IIHF Congress decision, the world's most prestigious annual tournament for ice hockey teams will now take place in Tampere and Riga from May 12-28, 2023.
“It is a privilege and we are grateful to jointly host the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship,” Finnish Ice Hockey Association President Harri Nummela said about the bid of the two Baltic Sea nations.
Finland’s Tampere is set to serve as the main venue for next year's Championship, with its Nokia Arena staging one preliminary-round group, two quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches of next year's tournament. The 9,550-seat Arena Riga in Latvia's capital is the other rink set to be used for the 2023 edition hosting one preliminary-round group and two quarter-final games.
“We are happy for your trust and are ready to host the World Championship with the best conditions for the teams and the best atmosphere for the fans,” said Latvian Ice Hockey Federation President Aigars Kalvitis in a statement issued on Friday.
In 2018, Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, won the right to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship scheduled for May 5-21, 2023. The annual tournament for ice hockey teams was planned to take place in the new 23,000-seat arena in St. Petersburg, one of the biggest ice hockey venues in the world.
However, on April 26, the IIHF Council decided to withdraw the tournament from St. Petersburg “out of concern for the safety and well-being of all participating players, officials, media, and fans.”
Earlier, Russian and Belarus athletes were barred from some international sports competitions, including soccer and ice hockey, after the International Olympic Committee Executive Board recommended bans to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.
The move came in response to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and Belarus’ support for what Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
Russia has also lost hosting rights for next year's World Junior Ice Hockey Championship that was to be held in the Siberian cities of Omsk and Novosibirsk.
Russia, which has historically been among the world’s top sporting nations, remains banned from major international competition in every other Winter Olympic sport and many Summer Olympic sports due to the doping scandal. Russian athletes are forbidden to playback the country’s national anthem or display the national flag following a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decision.
The world’s largest country had already been banned from all major sporting events, including Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Qatar 2022 Football World Cup, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. However, the four-year ban was halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), allowing Russians to compete, just not under their own flag.