One in four Czechs are planning to attend midnight mass on December 24, suggests a poll conducted by the Median agency and published in Lidové noviny. The newspaper said the expected attendance at midnight mass somewhat contradicted the Czech Republic’s reputation as one of Europe’s most atheistic states. One priest told the daily that the midnight service was often full of “once a year attendees”, rather than regular church-goers. An expert on religion said annual church-goers were either believers who do not normally attend services, or non-believers who view Christmas mainly in cultural terms and enjoy the music.
Organisers have opted to go ahead with a competition in cross country skiing’s Tour de Ski in Nové Město na Moravě on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, despite the fact snow conditions are currently poor at the Moravian resort. The decision was made after talks with a representative of the International Ski Federation. The weather forecast for Christmas Eve is for freezing weather, which should make it possible to cover at least the sprinters track with artificial snow. The programme of the Tour de Ski competition will be set according to snow conditions on December 31. A Tour de Ski sprint competition will also take place at Prague’s Výstaviště on December 29.
The number of internet addresses ending in .cz now stands at more than half a million, the body which oversees Czech domain names CZ.NIC announced on Tuesday. The process of registering a domain name has been sped up considerably by a new system introduced in 2007. Over 130,000 new web addresses ending in .cz have been registered this year.
Prague Airport has paid over CZK 4 billion for land on which it plans to build a new runway, a spokesperson said. The operators of Ruzyně airport bought nearly 80 hectares from around 20 different owners, significantly adding to the value of the state-owned company ahead of a planned sell-off. Analysts quoted by the Czech News Agency said Prague Airport could now be worth CZK 26 billion more to a potential buyer than if it had not bought the land. The government had been hoping to raise more than CZK 100 billion through the privatisation, though expectations have been revised downwards because of the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, a spokesperson said Prague Airport would likely handle 12.65 million passengers this year, a record number.
The head of the Roman Catholic church Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic next September, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk has confirmed to the news website aktualne.cz. The pope will spend around three days in the country, though his programme has not been finalised, Cardinal Vlk said. The previous pontiff, John Paul II, visited the Czech Republic three times.
The Czech actresses Aňa Geislerová and Taťána Vilhelmová have raised over CZK 1 million for various charities with their annual Christmas bazaar. The two, along with film director Petr Serge Butko, auctioned gifts donated by both members of the public and well-known personalities. Among the items that went under the hammer were a Trabant car covered in fake fur and a tie sent from his home in the US by the renowned Czech actor Jan Tříska.
The Interior Ministry has reduced the number of countries whose citizens can apply for green cards to work in the Czech Republic, iHned.cz reported. Due to the global financial crisis and an expected fall in demand for low-paid workers from abroad, both Vietnam and Mongolia have now been excluded from the scheme, the news website said. The final list of countries which can take part will be announced next Monday, just days before the green card system comes into effect.
Eighty-seven percent of Czechs are planning to spend Christmas Eve at home, suggests a poll carried out for the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes by the SC&C polling agency. Four people is the most common number for Christmas dinner; 28 percent of respondents said they would be enjoying carp and other traditional Czech Christmas foods with three others. One third of Czechs will have a grandparent or other relative over on Christmas Eve, the survey indicates.
The 19-year-old Czech football player Tomáš Necid has passed a medical at CSKA Moscow and will start training with the Russian club after Christmas. Necid was the top scorer in the Czech league in the first half of the season with 11 goals for Slavia Prague. Another Slavia player likely to be absent in the New Year is Marek Suchý, who appears set to join Hamburg. Staying with mid-season transfers, Baník Ostrava have lost Václav Svěrkoš to Sochaux and Tomáš Galásek to Borussia Monchengladbach, while Sparta’s Miroslav Slepička has signed with Dinamo Zagreb.
President Václav Klaus has issued pardons to 13 people on the eve of the Christmas holiday. Mr Klaus’s spokesman said in most cases the pardons had been granted for humanitarian reasons. Among the recipients was a woman found guilty of attempting to stab her husband to death; she had an eight-year jail term rescinded on the grounds that she had been repeatedly physically abused by her partner. Four foreigners were pardoned; as well as seeing their convictions overturned, the four have had expulsion orders quashed and can now remain in the Czech Republic. Some have criticised the tradition of presidential pardons as a relic of feudalism.