Over 100,000 people have already applied for free tickets to see Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the Czech Republic at the end of next month. Organisers say nearly 70,000 people have snapped up tickets to see the pope serve mass at an air field near the Moravian capital, Brno, while around 35,000 have got tickets for an open-air mass at Stará Boleslav in central Bohemia. Pope Benedict is also set to visit Prague during a three-day stay.
The Czech Republic’s national carrier Czech Airlines saw a fall of nearly 10 percent in passenger numbers in the first half of 2009. Some 2.08 million people flew on CSA between the start of January and the end of June, representing a fall of 9.6 percent, according to figures released by the Association of European Airlines on Thursday. The percentage of seats sold on Czech Airlines’ flights has fallen below 60 percent. The airline is set for privatization, with two bidders in the running: Air France-KLM and a Czech consortium of Unimex and Travel Service.
Two hundred and one cases of swine flu have now been detected in the Czech Republic, a health ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. Many Czechs who have caught swine flu picked it up in states such as the USA, Spain, Greece, Malta and France, he said. To date nobody has died of the infection in this country.
Václav Havel, a former president of the Czech Republic, is publicly backing the Green Party ahead of general elections to be held in October. The leader of the 1989 Velvet Revolution also came out in support of the Greens before elections to the European Parliament in June, when the party won no seats. The Green Party won six seats in the last elections to the Chamber of Deputies and were the smallest grouping in a coalition government led by Mirek Topolánek. However, most recent opinion polls have suggested the Greens would not make the five-percent threshold needed to win any seats in October.
Police in north Moravia have arrested 12 people in connection with a firebomb attack on a Romany family’s home which severely injured a young child. The 12, who are far right extremists, were picked up in the Bruntál district on Wednesday. Police have not said whether any of them have been charged with the arson attack, which took place in the town of Vítkov in April. Three petrol bombs were thrown into the house, injuring three people. The most badly affected was a two-year-old girl named Natálka: she suffered burns on 80 percent of her body and is still in a very serious condition. Her father Pavel Kudrik said on Thursday that the family had given up hope that anybody would be apprehended in connection with the case. The police said more information about the arrests would be made public on Friday.
Around 40,000 people are expected to attend a concert by Madonna in Prague on Thursday night. The American pop singer is promoting her most recent album Sticky and Sweet. She has made one previous appearance in the Czech capital, three years ago. Madonna is set to perform on a green area in the Chodov district of Prague which has not previously been used as a concert venue. Traffic restrictions have been imposed in the area.
The Czech energy giant ČEZ has announced profits of CZK 32 billion (over USD 800 million) in the first half of this year. Despite a rise of 11 percent in consolidated net profit, analysts said they had expected slightly better results. The head of ČEZ Martin Roman said he believed the company was still on target to make a profit of 50.2 billion crowns for the whole of 2009.
Skin specialists are pushing for a law which would bar people under the age of 18 from using sun beds. The head of the Czech Society of Dermatology, Petr Arenberger, said regular use of sun beds at a young age increased the risk of contracting skin cancer by 75 percent. Mr Arenberger also said the group had prepared a guide for users of solariums, alerting them to the health risks involved. A recent study by the Czech Trade Inspectorate found that eight out of 10 solariums in the Czech Republic breached safety regulations.
The first performance by the Czech Republic’s football team under new coach Ivan Hašek has received good reviews in the country’s newspapers. After the Czechs beat Belgium 3:1 in a friendly in Teplice on Wednesday evening, most Czech dailies agreed that the Hašek era had gotten off to a positive start. However, they also pointed out that the real test would come next month when the national team travel to Bratislava for a make-or-break World Cup qualifier against Slovakia, who currently lead Group 3. Ivan Hašek appointed himself national team boss for the rest of the World Cup campaign after becoming head of the Czech football association in June.
Former prime minister, and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek has rejected a bid to live on 10,000 crowns, or some 550 US dollars, for a month. Social Democrat MP Zdeněk Škromach asked the former cabinet leader to take part in an experiment that involves living on a typical retirement pension. For his part, Mirek Topolánek said that the bid was a populist move by the Social Democrats, and that he was focusing on a positive campaign ahead of the early general elections scheduled for October.
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