A new chip-based travel-card system launched this week is experiencing some teething problems according to Czech transport authorities. The “Opencard” system has been up and running as a pilot project for more than sixteen months, but the newly launched method of purchasing “electronic tickets” for the Opencard has seen an unexpected huge surge in demand. The biggest problem appears to be a lack of outlets where the card can be purchased – at present only nine places in Prague sell the e-tickets, which reports say, has resulted in queues and other headaches for the Prague Transit Authority. Czechs can already take advantage of a number of unusual ways of paying for their public transportation, including payment by SMS text message.
Aria Hotel Prague, the first Luxury Music Hotel in the Czech capital is celebrating its 5th birthday. The 52-room Aria Hotel is located close to Charles Bridge and St. Nicholas Cathedral and was designed by famed designers Rocco Magnoli & Lorenzo Carmellini best known for their work with fashion legend Gianni Versace. The hotel also houses the city’s oldest Baroque garden which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Around twenty members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have been demonstrating outside the Chinese Embassy in Prague. The group, which assembled between Thursday and Friday is protesting human rights abuses in China and the plight of Tibet. During the protest, the group was joined by other Czech human rights activists. At one point, members of the group attempted to deliver a petition to the embassy. The Falun Gong movement is outlawed in China. Meanwhile, the human rights group Amnesty International has asked the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek to bring up Chinese human rights abuses during his upcoming three-day visit to China. Recently, Mr Topolánek angered the Chinese authorities by wearing a Tibetan flag lapel-pin during the announcement of his visit to the host country of the 2008 Olympic Games.
The Czech Republic has reacted to a recent statement of concern expressed by border police in the German state of Bavaria. Specifically, German police have expressed concerns that since the Czech Republic’s entry into the Schengen zone six months ago, the number of people caught entering Germany from the Czech Republic illegally has doubled. According to the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann 633 illegal immigrants from the Czech Republic were caught in Bavaria in the first half of the year, twice as many as during the same period in 2007. However, Czech authorities have responded by stating that the situation is under control and does not pose a threat to Germany. It also pointed out that most of those caught were foreigners with Czech residency permits who were unable to travel legally and were only seeking to visit the country.
Jiří Teryngel, a famous lawyer in the Czech Republic, had had his office burgled, according to reports. The lawyer who has defended numerous high profile heads of businesses, companies such as IPB and allegedly the Social Democratic party, lost both money and expensive furniture in the raid on his office in Prague 4. Police continue to investigate the incident. Last week, Mr Teryngel was released from a one month spell in prison after he was convicted of seeking to influence witnesses involved in trials. He is also being investigated by anti-corruption police for alleged tax evasion in the realm of hundreds of millions of crowns.
The eighth of the eighth two thousand and eight saw a boom in marriages across the Czech Republic, according to various sources. For example, the town of České Budějovice broke its previous records with 22 weddings taking place in one day. Meanwhile, the district of Prague reported 42 marriages, with 26 marriages taking place at the Old Town Hall. Besides the obvious symmetry of the date, the number eight is also viewed as representing unity.
The Czech Olympic team has become the first to win a gold medal at this year’s Beijing Olympics. The gold medal went to Kateřina Emmons and was awarded in the sport of the women’s 10m air rifle. The athlete also broke the existing Olympic record in her field. Ms Emmons is married to the American shooter Matt Emmons and lives in Colorado Springs, USA. In this year’s competition, she achieved a score of 503.5, and will now compete in a separate three-point rifle event.
The Warsaw bourse is considering purchasing a controlling stake in the Prague Stock Exchange, according to the Reuters news agency. This week, it was announced that a majority of shareholders of the Prague Stock Exchange had decided to sell their stake. The move prompted speculation about foreign interest in purchasing the exchange. The Warsaw exchange lists 366 companies worth $340 billion and recently sent a strong signal of support for the move to sell the Prague Stock Exchange.
Investigations are continuing into Friday’s train accident near the city of Ostrava which caused seven deaths and multiple injuries. Overnight, the Czech police asked for a suspension of the cleanup operation in order to conduct forensic tests designed to help determine why an overhead bridge fell onto the tracks, causing an ill-fated train to crash into the debris. At present, most of the wagons involved in the accident have been removed from the tracks – the only exceptions are the wagons directly underneath the fallen bridge. The latest information suggests that the overhead bridge was being prepared for significant reconstruction work. A key factor for investigators is to determine whether human error played a part in the accident. Meanwhile, transport authorities believe that services along the second adjacent track could resume as early as Sunday. Meanwhile 33 people remain in hospital following the accident.