The Prague International Marathon was won on Sunday by Kenyan runner
Barnabas Koech; among the women Ethiopian runner Leila Amman came in
1st. Mr Koech came in at 2 hours, 12 minutes and 15 seconds, while Ms
Amman completed the race in just over 2 hours 30 minutes. The big news
for Czech sports fans, meanwhile, was that 3rd place in the men's race
was clinched by Robert Stefko, a naturalised Czech from Slovakia who
received his citizenship in March. Stefko finished the race in 2 hours
12 minutes 35 seconds, becoming the first Czech to make the winner's
podium in the marathon's ten year history. Mr Stefko also automatically
qualified for the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.
In all, a little under 4, 500 runners took part in this year's Prague International Marathon, though many of those who took part complained about this weekend's unusually chilly weather.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia's second president Edvard Benes, in a more than one hour long ceremony attended by hundreds on Sunday. The ceremony took place in Sezimovo Usti in south Bohemia, where Mr Benes once maintained a personal villa and was later buried. On Sunday President Klaus, criticised his predecessor's treatment by those he said "would like to rewrite history". Similarly, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that Mr Benes had been demonised in connection with the expulsion of some two-and-a-half million ethnic Sudeten Germans after World War II. According to Mr Spidla, Mr Benes was a "democratic politician who had done all he could" within the circumstances of his day.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has announced plans to increase personnel at the Czech consulate in Moscow in order to meet a sudden increase in the number of Russians applying for Czech visas. The decision has come on the heels of complaints by several Russian travel agencies that contend they had to cancel several group vacations because visas had not been issued on time. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar has said that the problem resulted in part thanks to new European Union regulations affecting the Czech Republic as of May 1st.
Following a raid on Monday Czech police have now closed a music bar in Liberec, north Bohemia, said to have been used as an outlet for the distribution of illegal drugs. On Monday some forty officers moved in to arrest the 35-year-old proprietor of the venue, as well as a 20-year-old waiter, allegedly involved in the sale of marijuana and hashish. A sniffer-dog found 120 packages of high-quality marijuana, worth 150, 000 crowns, on the premises, while seventeen customers in the bar discovered to have cannabis and drug paraphernalia and were taken in for questioning. Two-thirds of those were found to be under the age of eighteen while nine had traces of cannabis in their blood. Police are now investigating whether drugs were sold to anyone under the age of fifteen. The owner of the bar has been remanded in custody.
Canoeist Martin Doktor has secured a spot in the 200 metres canoeing sprint at the European Championship on Sunday, as well as the 500 metre event. The famous Czech canoeist has now also secured a bronze in the 1000 metre event, coming in just thousandths of a second behind Spaniard Cal. Germany's Dittmer came in first, edging both Cal and Doktor by more than two seconds.
Speaking to a spokeswoman from NATO's supreme European command on Friday public broadcaster Czech TV reported it likely that the Czechs' elite anti-chemical unit, based in Liberec, north Bohemia, will provide protection at this summer's Olympic Games. NATO spokeswoman Michaela Cvanova told Czech TV that Athens - hosting the Games - was counting on Czech support to help protect against potential terrorist threats. The broadcaster reported some 120 specialists from NATO's multi-national battalion - of which the core group is Czech - would serve in Greece during the Games. Czech chief of staff Pavel Stefka also confirmed on Friday that preparations were being made, although the Czech Republic has yet to receive an official request. According to Czech TV, NATO's NBC unit could be in Greece within three weeks; the expected cost of the mission will be 50 million crowns.
Amnesty International has welcomed the Czech government's decision to prevent the sale of a Czech-made radar system to China. The Cabinet on Wednesday agreed that the sale was not in line with the country's foreign policy interests and asked the Industry and Trade Ministry to revoke a sales license it approved at the beginning of the year. News of the planned sale brought criticism from politicians at home and abroad. The Vera radar is a highly sensitive surveillance system, the successor to the Tamara radar which is said to be able to detect US stealth aircraft. Amnesty has proposed that in its annual report on arms exports the Czech Republic also include rejected license applications.
A spokesman for President Vaclav Klaus has dismissed as absurd a charge of treason levelled against the president by a Christian Democrat senator. Senator Zdenek Barta has drafted a constitutional charge of treason against President Klaus for failing to propose suitable new judges to the Constitutional Court, which currently lacks the necessary number of judges to do its business. The Senate has found many of the President's candidates unacceptable, which accounts for the vacancies. The President's chancellor, Jiri Weigl, said the charge was politically motivated and groundless.
The defence ministers of the Visegrad Group -a lose alliance of four Central European states - are to meet in Prague on Monday to debate future cooperation within the European Union. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary joined the EU on May 1st but have agreed to maintain Visegrad Group cooperation which helped them meet EU accession criteria. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have particularly close ties, due to 70 years of coexistence in the former Czechoslovak federation. Both countries faced similar problems in bringing their military technology to NATO standards and are now considering the possibility of close cooperation in protecting their air-space.
The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, discussed the planned constitution for the European Union with his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Spidla, while on a short visit to Prague on Thursday. Mr Ahern, who is also currently the President of the European Council, said disagreements remained over when to use qualified majority voting, while Mr Spidla said he believed it was likely agreement would be reached over the controversial constitution.