The 2012 IIHF world championship tournament is being hosted by Helsinki and Stockholm this month, and then in 2013. After that, it's scheduled for Minsk, Belarus — a decision that's thrust the IIHF into international controversy over the ongoing human rights violations by President Alexander Lukashenko's government.
No To Minsk 2014 is an organization that demands the IIHF pull the 2014 tournament from Belarus, calling on NHL players and national team players from around the world to join the effort. This week, they released a protest video that may get their attention (some NSFW sexual imagery):
The "cheerleaders" in the video are actually popular Finnish actresses: Lotta Kaihua, Anna-Mari Karvonen, Krista Kosonen, Elena Leeve, Rakel Liekki, Anna Paavilainen, Sanna Stellan and Armi Toivanen. (Surely you remember Lotta Kaihua from 2005's "Beauty and the Bastard"? No?)
This is, of course, the second blending of sexuality and politics to draw attention to the Belarus issue. Please recall the topless street hockey played by Ukrainian feminist group named Femen in front of IIHF headquarters. We certainly do.
Protests have been held during the 2012 IIHF tournament; on Friday, IIHF President Rene Fasel addressed the Belarus issue.
From Fasel at the 2012 IIHF Annual Congress (via IIHF):
"Much of the debate leading up to this IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship has been about the IIHF confronting pressure about Belarus 2014. Before I will share with you the opinion of the Council, I would like to say this:
Everyone has the right to voice their opinion about something they feel strongly about. The IIHF office has for almost a year now received and duly collected all calls for re-allocation of the World Championship in 2014. We respect their commitment to the cause.
I don't think there is anyone here who is for violation of democratic and human rights. Our organization is, by definition, democratic with all members being able to stand up and say what they think and we will always stay that way.
Having said that, the council and I, we are convinced that it is not the task of sports organizations and athletes to act as politicians and try to do their job. We should not be used as puppets for politicians or activists. Sport cannot and should not be a political tool.
While politics very often is confrontational and divisive, sports should stand for reconciliation and opening of new frontiers.
Sport has in fact a history of accomplishing things where politics failed. Recall that in the '70s it was a series of ping-pong matches that defrosted the relationships between the USA and China.
Rugby has done more than any political action to reconcile the people in South Africa after the dark period of apartheid.
And in our sport, we would be deprived of maybe the greatest series ever played — the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union — if those two countries would be guided by their ideological differences, rather than by the desire to compete on ice to see who the best is in hockey.
Just like in the examples I have mentioned, I believe that if we go to Belarus we will contribute to make things better, to make things more open. By not going there, I believe that we would be punishing the wrong people, the Belarusian fans, other fans, and the athletes.
I was also encouraged by two editorial columns in two of Sweden's biggest newspapers during the first week of the World Championships where both said the same:
Sport should not be used as a spearhead for political causes. This is why we have politicians.
Boycotts of sport events is against the fundamental idea of sports and it devalues the idea of sport.
This is our opinion. If there any other opinions, this congress is your opportunity to say so."
It's an issue that's certainly going to be debated in the next two years — especially when Fasel is being accused of "playing with a dictator" (no, not the one from Waadeya) and with protest groups recruiting famous actresses to sexualize hockey equipment in PSAs.
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