Riga keen to host ice hockey championship, again

  • 2007-01-24
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon
RIGA - Latvia has made a bid to host the 2013 World Ice Hockey Championships, less than a year after holding the 2006 tournament. The official application was submitted on Jan. 16, and was accompanied by a letter from Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis.

Latvia hosted the World Ice Hockey Championships in May 2006 's the first time the tournament was held in a former Soviet satellite state. The organization of the event 's the biggest in Latvia's history as an independent state - was praised by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Latvian Ice Hockey Federation spokesman Martins Lapis said that last year's world championships "went quite well for the first time."

But although the 2006 championships were widely considered a success, the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation still feels it can improve the event for 2013 should the bid be accepted.
"There were traffic jam problems last time," Lapis said. He also noted problems surrounding black market ticket sales in 2006 and expressed concern over the difficulties some foreigners faced in securing tickets for games.
For now, though, such plans are only talk. Latvia faces some tough competition to host the 2013 tournament. The Baltic state is running against some big names in the ice hockey world, including Sweden, the Czech Republic and Finland, which won gold, silver, and bronze respectively at the 2006 championships.

However, Kirovs Lipmans, president of the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation, believes that Latvia would not have made a formal bid to host the championship if there wasn't a very good chance of succeeding.
Economically, the 2006 championship was a huge boost for Latvia, which is doubtless the main motivation for wanting to stage the event a second time.

Riga saw record numbers of tourists during the tournament and received enormous international attention. Hosting the championship, however, came at a cost to locals and to those visitors without any interest in hockey.
Hotels and restaurants all around the capital indulged in significant price-gouging, in some cases doubling or tripling their prices to cash in on the 17-day tournament. After the championships ended and the tourists went home, prices returned to more reasonable levels, but still not as low as they were before the tournament.

But there were no official complaints about the championship with politicians across the divide hailing it as a great success.
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis awarded Lipmans and former Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, who served as the tournament's executive organizer, certificates of recognition for their success in coordinating the championship.
If Latvia wins the bid to host the tournament in 2013, the state will have to invest in building a third hockey venue. The 2006 championships were split between Riga Arena, a professional rink built especially for the event, and the Riga Skonto Arena, with approximately half the games played in each.

"We need to build a new arena with capacity for 7,000 people - about three quarters the size of Riga Arena," Lapis said. "I think the government will help [with the funds] if we get the bid."
Nonetheless, with 20 million lats (29 million euros) invested into Riga Arena, a new rink would still represent a costly enough venture for the government.

Latvia will know whether it's a candidate country to host the games after the IIHF meets in Moscow this May.
If Latvia is chosen as one of the two or three candidate countries, then it will have to wait for the federation's final decision, to be announced during the 2008 world championships in Quebec, Canada, to know if it has been successful.
Should Latvia lose the final bid to host the 2013 championships, it will be certain to apply again in the near future. o