Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Friday presented 12 laureates with the Gratias Agit award for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Among those awarded this year are former figure-skating champion Ája Vrzáňová, UK-based architect Eva Jiřičná, and composer Antonín Tučapský. Three foreign nationals were recognised, including Nazmi Akiman of Turkey, a former diplomat who is now the chairman of the Czech-Turkish Business Council. The awards are held annually in the Great Hall at Czernin Palace – the headquarters of the Czech Foreign Ministry.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych survived a tough five-setter on Friday against South Africa’s Kurt Anderson at Roland-Garros. The seventh seed won the opening set but lost the next two before fighting his way back into the match. Berdych won the deciding set 6:4. Anderson was seeded 31st in the tournament. The second-round win means that Berdych will face either Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina or Croatia’s Marin Cilic next.
Chile’s president, Sebastián Pinero, has been sent a ceremonial pen to replace one pocketed by the Czech head-of-state last year. Video of President Václav Klaus taking the pen while Mr Pinero was speaking in Chile went viral on the internet and the incident was reported on by many media outlets. The sending of replacement pen was Euro MP Edvard Kožušník’s idea: a humorous gesture by the member of the Civic Democratic Party originally founded by Mr Klaus. The Czech news agency reported that the new pen, manufactured in the Czech Republic, cost 12.000 crowns.
Patients at Czech hospitals will be able to opt for surgeons or specialists of their choice by paying a fee between five and 15 thousand crowns as of Friday. Facilities, however, will still have to provide top quality service even for those who “opt out”. In Prague, the Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital is one of the facilities providing the service; not all facilities will. The head of the Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital, Marek Zeman, has said that doctors booked by patients would receive 50 percent of the fee, while the rest went to the hospital budget. Lawyer and former head of the Constitutional Court, Eliška Wágnerová, has interpreted the service differently, saying the entire fee will go to hospitals in question and not be divided with specialists.
The Czech national football team faces Hungary at Prague’s Letná stadium on Friday evening – the squad’s final friendly ahead of Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. The squad is playing exactly as nominated with the exception of team captain Tomáš Rosický who is recovering from a calf injury. He is to resume training on Monday to be ready in time for the tournament. The Czech squad has had a good run up to the European Championship, winning four of its last five games.
Hundreds of bells throughout the country will be rung on Friday evening to begin Church Night. More than 1,250 churches and other ecclesiastical buildings will be open to the public. Organisers say the aim is to bring people closer to Christianity through interviews, music, and art. In Prague alone, 222 churches will be taking part in the event. Organisers on Friday also marked International Children’s Day, with events beginning at 12 pm.
Traffic and public transport at Prague’s Letná will see restrictions beginning on Saturday as major road, tram line, and sidewalk repairs get underway. Letná tunnel will closed to motorists for a number of weeks. The extensive renovation project - as a whole – will continue through the summer holidays.
Prosecutors from Ústí nad Labem transferred the case against former governor David Rath – remanded in custody over suspected corruption – to the region of Central Bohemia on Friday. It is there, in the town of Rudná, that Mr Rath is suspected of having accepted a bribe related to a corrupt tender and the planned renovation of Buštěhrad castle. News website tyden.cz reports that supervision of the case has been taken over by Petr Jirát, an expert in economic corruption at the state prosecutor’s office in central Bohemia. The Social Democrat MP and former governor David Rath was arrested in mid-May with seven million crowns on his person; eight others were also charged in the case. Police wiretaps, a small part of which were published by the press on Friday, showed Mr Rath and a colleague expressing glee over illicit funds.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency suggests that presidential hopeful Jan Fischer, a former prime minister, and Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar would get the most votes in the first round of next year’s presidential election. According to the agency, Mr Fischer, who led an interim government following the fall of Mirek Topolánek’s government in 2009, would receive 24.1 percent in the first round, while Mr Švejnar would receive 15.8. The latter, however, has not yet officially announced. Former prime minister Miloš Zeman placed third but has picked up growing support, sources like Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes noted, suggesting he could be competitive in the contest. So far independent candidates have gotten the most support with analysts suggesting that many voters are ‘fed up’ with traditional party candidates.
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