According to numbers available from two of the country's most prominent betting agencies, Czechs have now bet more than one billion crowns - the equivalent of around 50 million US dollars - on matches in the on-going football World Cup. A spokesman for one of the agencies said that following the national squad's exit in the group stage it was expected that Czech betting on matches would now drop by an estimated 30 percent.
In related news, Mirek Topolanek met officially with the head of the
Social Democratic Party, Jiri Paroubek, on Friday to discuss possible
support for the new government - which otherwise lacks the majority
needed to pass a confidence vote. While the two men reportedly failed
to clinch a deal so far, they have not closed the door on further
talks. Earlier Mr Paroubek said the planned centre-right cabinet could
win his backing but listed tough programme conditions that Mr Topolanek
has refused to accept. According to some analysts, the Social Democrats
may prefer to let the government fall in a confidence vote, but later
agree to tolerate a Civic Democrat-only minority cabinet. That would
theoretically allow the left-of-centre party greater influence on
Parliament is to begin meeting on June 27th. But, talks between all five parties in the lower house on how to divide up committees and key positions, such as speaker of the lower house, are continuing. Election of the speaker is a precondition for the old government to step aside to make way for the new.
The continuing heat wave in the Czech Republic is causing an increase in the need for emergency medical services. In Prague there were over 100 emergency cases attended to on Wednesday alone, including incidents of heart failure and epileptic seizures. High blood pressure and sun burns have also been threats. Doctors are warning that the elderly and those with respiratory problems should avoid the outdoors, while all should stay properly hydrated, drinking at a minimum of 2.5 litres of water per day.
In related news, national squad coach Karel Brueckner may stay on despite the Czech teams exit, leading the Czechs through qualifying for Euro 2008. Mr Brueckner, who is 66, was extended an invitation on Friday to stay on as the coach for the next two years - the matter will be decided in the coming days. Despite the Czech Republic's exit in the first round of this year's World Cup, the team has by-and-large enjoyed success during Mr Brueckner's tenure: the team, for example, reached the final four in the last European Championship in Portugal.
The leaders of a proposed centre-right government including the Civic
Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens have agreed on a
coalition programme and the distribution of ministerial posts.
According to information released on Friday, the right-of-centre Civic
Democrats will hold ten seats in the cabinet while the two other
parties will hold three each. The coalition agreement is to be signed
on Monday. Mirek Topolanek - the head of the Civic Democrats, the party
that won the general election earlier this month - is slated to be the
next prime minister, but individual names have not yet been disclosed.
Some changes proposed by the coalition include the abolishment of two
ministries: the Ministry for Information Technology and the Ministry
for Regional Development. The coalition is also proposing a new post:
Minister without portfolio for European Affairs.
Mr Topolanek said that a confidence vote on the new government - which lacks a majority in the 200-member lower house - could take place in about four weeks' time.
In the NHL, the Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr received the Lester B. Pearson Award on Thursday awarded to the league's most outstanding player. On Thursday the player reportedly joked on getting the award, saying that players understood the game better than the media: the Lester B. Pearson is awarded by the Players Association. It is the third time that Jagr has been given the honour. This year he amassed 129 points in the regular season.
A new survey conducted by the Factum Invenio agency has suggested that
a majority of voters who went to the polls in June's general election,
did so for "positive reasons": either to express their opinion or to
serve their sense of duty, a result higher than in previous elections
in 1998 and 2002. By contrast, the poll says, the majority of those who
declined to vote cited a general disinterest in politics or
dissatisfaction with politicians' behaviour.
The general election which took place at the first weekend in June saw a 65.4 percent turnout, up from 58 percent four years ago.
A day after the Czech national squad was eliminated from the football World Cup in Germany, the international press has largely praised one of the team's key players, star midfielder Pavel Nedved. In the view of a number of German as well as Italian dailies the talented midfielder was one of few in a decimated Czech side, who left everything on the pitch. In Thursday's match, the Czechs were beaten by Italy. 2:0 was the final score. The 33-year-old Nedved - who plays for Juventus and was 2003's European Footballer of the Year - had hinted earlier that he might retire from the national squad, but says he has not taken a final decision yet.
Viktor Kozeny, the Czech-born financier wanted for financial impropriety in both the Czech Republic and the US, may be extradited to the United States. A Bahamian judge made the ruling in final court proceedings on Friday, following a four month trial. Mr Kozeny, who holds Irish citizenship but has long lived in the Bahamas, has been in custody there since last year. The United States want to put him on trial for alleged money laundering in oil privatisation deals in Azerbaijan. But, it is not the money laundering charge but charges of corruption that were recognised by the judge to rule in favour of Mr Kozeny's extradition.
Visa relations between the Czech Republic and Australia are about to become much simpler. Starting this summer, Czech citizens will be able to apply for an Australian visa on-line, reducing the administrative time to mere minutes and eliminating lines at embassies. Czechs will also no longer be required to provide confirmation of insurance, or bank account statements. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda considers the change a great diplomatic success for the Czech Republic. Although Czechs still require a visa to Australia, Australian citizens may travel to the Czech Republic without a visa. Officials in Canberra have not revealed when visa requirements could be dropped altogether.
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