MINSK, June 6 (R-Sport) – Belarus’ police officers, perhaps best known for taking a distinctly physical approach to dealing with demonstrators, are being given English lessons to communicate with foreign hockey fans - with apologies for causing injury high on the list of phrases to learn.
Belarus will host one of the biggest sports events in its history when the world hockey championships come to town next year, prompting a police force often accused of brutality against opposition activists to take up English classes.
Officers will be given phrasebooks to help them out, copies of which have already appeared online, including phrases such as “I hope I didn’t hurt you,” “I didn’t mean to hurt you” and “Don’t get cross with me.”
The book contains some unusual remarks, including “No sweat,” with a note that “the given form is relatively familiar and hugely popular in Australia” - hardly natural territory for ice hockey fans.
Supporters saying “Hi” to a Belarusian policeman could find themselves considered overfamiliar, as the book stiffly states it is “a very informal greeting to be used only in relationships between well-acquainted people.”
The guide also contains some rather more typical phrases found in everyday policing, including “I was mugged,” “My documents were stolen” and “I want to make my telephone call.”
It is not known if it clears up potentially confusing hockey-related phrases like “face-off.”
The phrasebook should make a big difference, a spokesman for the Minsk police department claims.
“This work is being carried out so that police officers can explain themselves to guests of the Belarusian capital, make clear the peculiarities of keeping the peace and offer the required help,” the spokesman, who declined to be identified, said on Thursday.
“With a year to go until the world championships, it was decided to refresh English-language knowledge and teach the basics to those who don’t know them yet.”
He added: “Police officers should use this pamphlet for independent learning of the English language and apply it when communicating with foreigners.”
Awarding the world championships to Belarus was a controversial decision that sparked political controversy. The European parliament adopted a resolution last year saying the International Ice Hockey Federation should consider moving the tournament "until the regime shows commitment to human rights and the rule of law."
The championships will be held from May 9 to 25 next year.
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