21-02-2001

Well a sad day for the Czech people today, as they bid farewell to their chances of defending their ice-hockey Olympic gold medal. Lidove noviny shows a young female fan on the brink of tears as she watches the Czech team losing to Russia in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The headline in Mlada fronta Dnes says it all "The Dream's Over - Russians Send Us Home."

But as Pravo reports today, the champagne corks were popping at the home of Ales Valenta, the acrobatic skier who clinched the Czech Republic's first gold on Tuesday. Valenta's parents, from the North Moravian town of Sumperk, say both the doorbell and the phone were ringing non-stop after their son performed his unique clean triple back flip with five twists to clinch the gold.

"I can't remember how many people have stopped by to congratulate us," says Ales's father Vojtech. "We opened the champagne and there was this constant stream of people - not just the neighbours but people walking down the street as well. It was simply a feeling of total happiness," he says. And to see just how Ales Valenta pulled off his amazing jump, turn to page 18 of Pravo for a step-by-step photo guide. But maybe don't try that one at home.

Mlada fronta Dnes reports today that a vintage tram in the centre of Prague was covered in graffiti on Wednesday night, and to make matters worse, the stationary tram sits directly opposite a police station. The 1908 tram was sprayed in metre-high letters with the graffiti artist's tag - "Zude." "It's absolutely outrageous. I'm furious that they managed to get away with it right under our noses," says officer Milan Chudada, who's working on the case.

One might ask just how someone managed to spray a tram in the centre of Prague opposite a police station in the middle of the night, without the boys in blue noticing. But officer Chudada is unrepentant. "It would have been hard for us to catch him. He probably did it in 10 minutes," he says. The paper describes "Zude" as one of Prague's most daring sprayers.

Back to Pravo, and the paper claims that crafty foreigners are renting office space, running up millions of crowns in phone bills, and then leaving the country without paying them. In the beginning, says the paper, landlords are happy to rent expensive office space to wealthy foreign clients. But their happiness quickly turns to desperation when the phone bills start to arrive.

"They came and rented two offices, telling us they did business over the Internet," one woman told a court in Brno. The woman claims her Vietnamese tenants ran up 10 million crowns in phone bills before doing a runner. "There were various Vietnamese coming and going, but they all look the same don't they? When the phone bills came in, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I went straight down to the office, but when I got there, it was empty and they were gone."

And finally to the back page of Lidove noviny, and a scathing cartoon about Prime Minister Milos Zeman's recent comparison of Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler, and the international furore that followed. Neumannova represents us in cross-country skiing, says the paper. Valenta represents us in aerial freestyle skiing. Jagr represents us in ice-hockey. And Milos Zeman, says Lidove noviny, represents us in stupidity.

21-02-2001