The former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly building opened its doors to the public for the first time this Saturday. After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, the building, which sits at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square, was handed symbolically to US broadcaster Radio Free Europe. In June, after years of broadcasting from this location, Radio Free Europe handed the keys over to the Czech National Museum. On Saturday at 10:00 CET the building opened its doors to the public for the first time. The National Museum organized a series of guided tours for visitors focusing on the building’s history. Such guided trips around the building will now be available seven days a week. A tour of the old Parliament building costs 80 crowns (4.4 USD).
Six Czechs are in action on the first day of the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Saturday. Shot-putter Antonín Žalský is hoping to throw at least 20 metres in the championship’s opening discipline, while pole-jumpers Jiřina Ptačníková and Romana Maláčová are both hoping to succeed in qualifying heats. Triple-jumper Martina Šestáková and hammer-thrower Lukáš Melich will also be taking part in qualifying, while pentathlete Eliška Klučinová’s competition gets underway.
Ladislav Štaidl, who was alleged to have written and signed a letter with pop star Karel Gott to the general secretary of the Communist Party nearly 40 years ago, denied on Saturday ever having done such a thing. In the letter, published in the press two weeks ago, singer Karel Gott and his accompanists, the Štaidl brothers, seemingly plead for Communist leader Gustav Husák’s pardon, having spent too long in West Germany in 1971. In the letter, all of the signatories voice their support for the hard-line Normalization process which followed the Soviet-led invasion in 1968. When questioned about the letter, Karel Gott first said he may indeed have signed the document, but then dismissed the letter altogether as ‘utter nonsense’. On Saturday, his long-term colleague Ladislav Štaidl told Právo that he on no account wrote or signed such a letter.
Four Czech far-right extremists have been charged with attempted murder over an arson attack on a Roma family’s home which left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life, prosecutors said on Friday. The four are accused of throwing firebombs in a premeditated attack which led to three members of a Roma family suffering serious burns, prosecutor Brigita Bilíková said. The accused face between 12 and 15 years in prison, she added. The attack on April 19 in the north Moravian town of Vítkov sparked outrage in the Czech Republic and among the Roma community. The two-year-old victim of the attack, Natalka, suffered 80 percent burns and remains in hospital, with doctors saying her condition is still serious. The attack led to Czech government pledges to step up the fight against racism in the Czech Republic.
In sport, Italian rider Valentino Rossi set a new track record of 1min 56.145sec to head qualifying Saturday ahead of the Czech Republic MotoGP. The eight-time world champion outpaced Spanish teammate Jorge Lorenzo by 0.050sec who had registered the fastest time in practice on Friday. Rossi shrugged off a minor fall three minutes before the end of the session. ‘Pole position is great, but the most important thing is that I’m okay after the crash’ the Italian told journalists in Brno on Saturday afternoon.
A Czech bus crashed en route to Lviv, Ukraine, on Saturday afternoon leaving three passengers injured. The accident happened near the Slovak-Ukrainian border when the driver veered off the road and into a ditch. Slovak police are investigating the crash and say that it was most likely caused by momentary negligence on the part of the driver. Only Czechs and Ukrainians were on the Lviv-bound bus, the identity of those injured has not yet been revealed.
Finance Minister Eduard Janota has warned that, without government intervention, the budget deficit in 2010 could reach some 256 billion crowns (14.12 billion USD), which constitutes seven percent of GDP. Speaking on Czech Radio on Saturday, Mr Janota added that this would be a very bad outcome, on a level with the current economic situation in Hungary. The finance minister said that the government must make some legislative changes, increasing the amount of money coming into state coffers and making extensive budget cuts across the board if this situation was to be avoided. He added that the Finance Ministry would be proposing such legislation to Parliament in due course. Mr Janota said that it was important that changes were made but that, ahead of early elections in the autumn, he was in no doubt that such changes would only be made with difficulty.
In football, English club West Ham re-signed Czech Republic midfielder Radoslav Kováč from Spartak Moscow for an undisclosed fee on Friday. Kováč spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham and made nine appearances for the Premier League club. Manager Gianfranco Zola was keen to bring Kováč back to Upton Park and the 29-year-old has agreed a three-year contract. West Ham finished ninth in the Premier League last season and Kováč believes another top-ten finish this time around would be a good campaign, the AFP news agency reports.
One hundred and seventy nine Czech tourists were left stranded on Crete on Saturday when their flight home was cancelled due to a technical problem. The airline Travel Service said that they would be sending another airplane as soon as they could, and that they expected the travelers would be back in the Czech Republic by 20:00 CET. The morning flight from Chania to Brno was cancelled when an electronic problem was detected in the airplane which is still being fixed.
Official data has shown that the Czech economy emerged from recession in the second quarter, growing by 0.3 percent. A strong influence has been the auto industry picking up, with increased sales in export markets. On a 12-month comparison, the Czech economy still plummeted by a record 4.9 percent. Analysts confirmed that the data had been expected, saying that the Czech economy had hit “rock bottom” in the first quarter and could now begin to bounce back. But others have cautioned against overly-optimistic scenarios. Just last week, the Czech central bank forecast a sharper full-year slump and slower recovery than expected previously. The bank now expects the economy to shrink 3.8 percent, compared to the earlier 2.4 percent predicted in May.
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