28-02-2001

On its front page, the daily Pravo features a photo of what is left of a railway station roof after a gale ripped it off in the town of Nyrany near Plzen on Wednesday. High winds wreaked havoc across the country overturning lorries and knocking down trees but, luckily, nobody was injured.

Mlada fronta Dnes bids farewell to the twelve national currencies replaced by the single European currency the euro and says that a crucial stage of the greatest financial operation in history is finished. Czech banks will continue to exchange the old currencies for the euro, but as of Friday, they will charge between ten and thirty percent commission, the paper notes.

Only two events have so far managed to bring so many people to the main square of the North Moravian town of Sumperk, today's Mlada fronta Dnes says - the fall of communism and the triple back flip with five twists as performed by Sumperk-born skier Ales Valenta at the Salt Lake City Olympics. More than 4 000 people were waiting for the 29-year old Czech athlete in his hometown. "Thank you, Ales!" and "Long live, Ales!" the happy crowd cheered. The mayor of Sumperk presented Valenta with a check for 250,000 crowns and a symbolic crown and sceptre, making him king of the town.

Lidove noviny reports that the Czech Olympic Committee would like to see the Czech cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova' Olympic position upgraded after the two Russian cross-country skiers who finished ahead of her were caught taking performance enhancing drugs. The Czech and Canadian Olympic Committees have asked for an investigation into the drug tests of Danilova and Lazutina. The two Russians passed earlier drug tests but later tested positive for a new performance-enhancing drug.

While the Czech President Vaclav Havel consistently refuses to meet communist politicians, Pravo suggests that his successor will probably not do likewise. The daily asked five potential candidates for the presidential office whether they would invite communists to negotiations. The only one who was not sure what he would do was Senate Chairman Petr Pithart. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that ostracising any political party is not good politics and the chairman of the Lower House Vaclav Klaus said the president should meet all relevant political parties which have a lot of public support. The Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl said that he did not think it was a good idea to ignore someone just because they have different views and the Roman Catholic priest Tomas Halik told Pravo he was open to dialogue regardless of any ideological or political differences.

Lidove noviny carries a drawing by the late Czech artist Jiri Trnka depicting Bilbo Baggins, one of the characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit - the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. In 1967 and 1968 Jiri Trnka drafted ten characters from the book for an American producer for a cartoon film. However, Trnka died in 1969 and The Hobbit was later made into a cartoon by somebody else.

And Pravo writes that Wednesday night saw the brightest Moon this year. According to Prague astronomer Pavel Suchan, several factors contributed. The Moon was full and at the same time closest to the Earth on its orbit, some 25 000 kilometres closer than the mean distance. That fact alone would make the Moon look bigger and shine brighter than a usual full moon by 20 percent. And last but not least, the Earth is also closer than usual to the Sun these days.

28-02-2001