07-12-2000

"The nation mourns a hero", "A last farewell", and "Tears and state distinctions". Those are just some of Thursday's front-page headlines. Emil Zatopek's funeral ceremony has put all other developments in the shade. It is not often that all the papers carry photos of exclusively one event, but this is one of the exceptions and on every single front page there are photos of Zatopek's flag-covered coffin and his widow, lifelong mate and staunch supporter Dana Zatopkova, famous in her own right in the world of sport. All the papers quote the words of Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympics Committee about legends never dying.

On the international scene, Mlada Fronta Dnes has zeroed in on the EU summit in Nice, calling it "another in a series of disappointments". The prime ministers of the candidate states will most likely return practically empty-handed, having heard a lot of encouraging words about the EU's commitment to expand but no time schedule either for the end of accession talks or an admission date for the first wave of candidates. "In short, the candidate states won't hear anything they haven't heard a thousand times before," the daily notes.

Even the most optimistic reader would be hard put to find good news on today's front pages. A series of price hikes expected in January is going to affect the entire population. Higher prices for gas, electricity, water, transport and postal services will increase household expenditure by an average of up to 300 crowns. Young families and pensioners are expected to be hardest hit, and the labour minister has already made it clear there will be no financial assistance for socially weaker families.

Unknown hackers have managed to break into the Interior Ministery's complex security system and change the ministry's web pages. Interior Ministry employees were allegedly "dumbfounded" by a picture of Interior Minister Stanislav Gross on the web and a greeting that read "Welcome to the Gross security system" in German. Obviously embarrassed by the incident, the Interior Ministry is said to be taking extra security precautions. A spokesman said no data had been touched. "This was clearly just a joke. They went no further than the web pages. But it is disturbing to know that they could have gone ahead and stolen classified data."

The hackers, who call themselves "The Binary Division", paid a visit to the Communist Party's web pages some time ago, changing the opening greeting to "Communism stinks!" and replacing the text with pornographic pictures. "Let's hope we got more visitors than usual," a Communist Party official quipped the next day.

And finally, if you wish to give your loved one a Christmas treat, buy tickets to the Czech musical Monte Cristo, due to premiere on December 13 at the Prague Congress Centre. The papers are giving it a lot of publicity, calling it THE most expensive Czech musical ever made. A star cast, a water stage with artificial waves and a ship changing before your eyes into a rowdy sailor's pub. Daniel Hulka is Monte Cristo and Leona Machalkova as the raven-haired Mercedes. It's an event not to be missed, says Pravo. You'll be in good company. According to Lidove Noviny, which has devoted a full page to it , the Czech president, prime minister, the entire Czech art world and foreign celebrities will attend the opening night.

07-12-2000