US President Barack Obama wrote a thank you note to Jan Fischer when he stood down recently as Czech prime minister. Mr Obama congratulated the former Czech leader on his achievements and thanked him for exceptional hospitality during a summit in Prague in April at which the American president signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. In the letter, made public by a former Czech government spokesperson, he also wrote that during Mr Fischer’s tenure as the head of an interim government relations between Prague and Washington had deepened. Last September Mr Obama announced that his government was dropping a plan created by the previous US administration for an anti-missile shield that would have had bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.
What organisers have dubbed the World Marbles Championships were held in Prague on Saturday. Around 40 players from the Czech Republic and elsewhere took part in the event, which was held in the park by the Štefánik Observatory at the top of the city’s Petřín Hill. Participants played in twos in a straight knock-out system, aiming their marbles at a hole 7.5 metres from the throwing line. The championship was organised by the Czech Marbles Federation.
A new production of the opera Don Giovanni directed by the noted Czech filmmaker Jiří Menzel premiered at the Český Krumlov International Music Festival on Friday night. Due to heavy rains it had to be moved from an outdoor theatre in the grounds of the castle in the south Bohemian town to a nearby building. There will be five more performances of Mr Menzel’s Don Giovanni, which is the result of co-operation between the festival and the Theatre of South Bohemia. Jiří Menzel has described himself as a theatre director who occasionally makes films. His most recent movie was 2006’s I Served the King of England.
Police are stepping up controls following a high number of deaths on Czech roads at the start of the holiday season. More officers than usual will be on duty on the country’s road network throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, a major nationwide road safety operation will begin on Monday and also involve the police services in states neighbouring the Czech Republic. So far this month around 80 people have died in car accidents, most of which occurred at weekends.
Rainstorms hit the Czech Republic on Friday night, causing complications in various parts of the country. Cellars were flooded in south Moravia and the region of Vysočina, while fire officers had to pump water from the hospital in the town of Znojmo and a museum in Brno. Parts of the D1 motorway between Brno and Prague were also flooded, and a police station was inundated in Plzeň. As well as dealing with problems caused by the downpours, rescue services had to remove trees that were knocked over by strong winds. Forecasters say more rain can be expected in the coming days.
The Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger looks set to come ninth in the Tour de France for the second year in a row. The Liquigas rider was in ninth overall following the penultimate stage on Saturday and is very likely to hold on to the position in Sunday’s final stage, which finishes in Paris and is at 102.5 kilometres the shortest of the Tour. Kreuziger, who is 24, was junior world champion in 2006 and has to date won the Tour de Romandie, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour of Sardinia.
Around 150 far-right extremists marched through Svitavy on Saturday in support of skinhead Vlastimil Pechanec, who received a 17-year jail term for the killing of a Romany man in the town. The protestors chanted slogans including ‘show trials’ and ‘Pechanec isn’t a murderer’. Meanwhile, around 30 anti-racism campaigners gathered at the bar where he stabbed Ota Absolon twice in 2001. Absolon, who was 30, died in hospital a few hours later.
Saturday marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. Mucha was born in the Moravian town of Ivančice, but found fame in Paris when a poster he designed for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt became an overnight sensation. The artist then produced a great number of paintings, posters, advertisements, book illustrations and other items in a style that became known as Art Nouveau. He died in 1939 after catching pneumonia while being interrogated by the Gestapo. A travelling exhibition marking the anniversary of his birth has been organised by the Mucha Foundation, which is headed by the painter’s grandson.
The Czech Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God are planning to hold a series of concerts later this year to mark the anniversary of the birth 200 years ago of one of their most noteworthy members, Celestýn Opitz. Opitz performed the first operation in which the patient was under anesthetic in Europe, at Prague’s Na Františku hospital in 1847. American surgeon William Wharton had been the first doctor in the world to use anesthetic, four months before the Czech. Announcing plans for the concert series, Vít Pospíchal of the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God told the Czech News Agency that Opitz’s work had been of great significance not only for the order but for the whole of medical science.
The new Czech minister of education, Josef Dobeš, has discussed plans for a cash reward for fresh graduates who enter the teaching profession. In an interview for the newspaper Právo, he said under his proposal they would receive a signing-on payment of CZK 180,000 (over USD 9,000), to be received after a certain period of service. Mr Dobeš said that provision would encourage men to become teachers, thus improving discipline among pupils. The great majority of teachers in Czech schools are female.
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