The Sokol /or Falcon/ athletics body -a physical exercise organization founded in 1862 during the Czech national revival - is holding its 14th all-Sokol meeting at Prague's Strahov stadium this week. Some 18 thousand gymnasts from all over the world are expected to take part. The Sokol athletics body is one of the oldest organizations in the world. Its modern era began with its revival after the fall of communism but even during the dark period of Czech history ex-pats around the world kept its spirit alive. The all-Sokol meeting takes place once in six years.
There has been no progress in breaking the political stalemate following June's inconclusive general elections. The lower house - where the centre right and centre left now have 100 seats each - failed to elect a new leadership earlier this week, and the centre-right coalition of Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens has not managed to secure majority support. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, who announced his intention to resign on Monday, has shown no inclination to support a centre right government. He said on Friday that the centre-right coalition was dead and suggested holding talks only between the two strongest parties - the Civic and Social Democrats. President Klaus said that under the circumstances he will not accept the prime minister's resignation on Monday.
A Czech bus bound for Ukraine crashed in Slovakia on Saturday morning. A woman was killed in the accident, 14 others were reported injured. The driver had allegedly run out of petrol and was trying to park on the roadside when the bus toppled over into a 5 meter deep ravine. Earlier this week another Czech bus crashed in Slovakia, killing a 14 year old boy.
Close to a hundred people have been forced to flee their homes in local floods in the south east of the country where the river Dyje burst its banks on Friday. Following several days of torrential rain swollen rivers in the southern regions of Bohemia and Moravia are proving difficult to contain. A number of villages have been flooded, others are on high alert, erecting sand-barriers to try to protect their property. The army has been called in to help and firemen and emergency crews have been working around the clock evacuating people from their homes. In the vicinity of the Dyje river the floods have proved worse than those in 2002.
As of July 1st Czech homosexuals can enter in same sex registered partnerships. The new "gay marriage" law gives gay and lesbian couples some of the advantages of a traditional marriage: inheritance rights, the right to be informed about the other's health and the right to raise children, although they cannot adopt them. According to the CTK news agency several gay couples tied the knot on the very first day this was made possible. It has taken seven years of lobbying to get this legislation approved and the Czech Republic is the first post-communist country to legalize gay marriage.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the newly-formed centre right coalition have called for talks with the Social Democrats which would help to find a way out of the political stalemate. The head of the Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek said the talks should take place early next week and focus on breaking the deadlock in the lower house and formulating the conditions under which the Social Democrats would be prepared to tolerate a centre-right government. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has countered that the centre right coalition is dead and has suggested holding talks only between the Civic and Social Democrats.
Laboratory tests have confirmed that a recently uncovered storage site of chemical substances near Pardubice in Eastern Bohemia contained the poisonous gas phosgene. The storage site of hazardous chemicals, including cyanide and salts of heavy metals was uncovered in a former industrial area by environmental inspectors in mid-June. The surrounding premises were evacuated as teams of fire-fighters, police and soldiers combed the grounds. Soil monitoring is to be carried out in the area for some time.
President Klaus has said he will not accept Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's resignation until the new lower house of parliament is fully functional. The prime minister announced this week that he would tender his resignation on Monday, triggering the fall of his government and opening the way for a new administration. However the balance of forces in the lower house -where the centre-left and centre right now have 100 seats each - has made it impossible to elect a new leadership and will make it difficult for the centre-right coalition headed by the Civic Democrats to be voted into office. President Klaus said that it would be utterly irresponsible to accept the prime minister's resignation under such circumstances.
The Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute issued a severe flood alert for areas near the southern border with Austria and Slovakia on Friday after heavy rains raised rivers to dangerous levels. The weather service said more rain was on the way during the weekend, and would put further pressure on swollen rivers that have already burst their banks in several areas, some of which were just starting to return to normal after floods in 1997. It gave the most serious flood warning for the Dyje river in the southeast. A number of villages have been already been flooded, others are on high alert and people have been erecting sand barriers to try and protect their property.
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