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Latvia closes for surprise holiday after hockey upset of U.S.

Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is the national sport, was co-hosting the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal was greeted with wild jubilation.

A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans gathered to welcome the squad.

At quarter to midnight Sunday, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, members of parliament convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.

It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled merrily while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not.

Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Canada won the gold medal, its record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.


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