Czech internet shops saw an increase in sales this Christmas season. Some online stores registered a year-on-year growth for the holiday season of around 40 percent. Others saw a weaker increase, but all the biggest e-shops confirmed that this Christmas was more successful than last year, and holiday shopping began earlier, due to the central bank’s intervention against the crown, which began in November. The biggest internet retailer in electronics, Alza.cz, announced that the three strongest days, in terms of sales, were between December 16 and 18. Total daily sales were approximately the same for Alza each of those days, reaching way above 100 million crowns.
A record number of people – 285 – took part in the 67th Alfréd Nikodém Memorial event, an annual swim in the Vltava River on Thursday. The Polar bear dip, which takes place near the National Theatre building in the centre of Prague, has a long tradition; It was established in 1923 by Prague hardy-man Alfréd Nikodém who propagated winter swimming as part of a healthy lifestyle. The annual event is attended by members of the local Polar Bears club and enthusiasts from neighbouring states. This year the temperature of the water was 4 degrees Celsius which many consider to be mild.
Meteorologists are warning of strong winds over the weekend, primarily in Moravia and parts of eastern Bohemia. On Saturday, winds of around 110 kilometers an hour are expected in the Jeseníky and Beskydy mountains in northern Moravia. In the lowlands, people are being warned of squalls of up to 75 kilometers an hour. The Czech Republic has seen high winds in the past few days, which have caused considerable damage in parts of the country.
In a Christmas message to the nation, President Miloš Zeman reflected on how he had fulfilled his election promises to voters. In a short address broadcast live by Czech public radio and television, Mr. Zeman highlighted five areas in which he had promised action, including improving relations with the EU and stabilizing the situation at the Constitutional Court. The president pointed out that the EU flag was now flying at Prague Castle and the Constitutional Court, which had come close to paralysis for lack of judges, was now complete and functioning. Mr. Zeman said that the most problematic of his promises was that to unite Czech society rather than dividing it, but argued that in preventing the return of a centre-government to office and opening the way for early general elections he had addressed that matter as well. In parting the president wished Czechs health and happiness in the coming year and thanked the outgoing Rusnok government for its work.
The reactions to President Zeman’s first Christmas message in office are muted. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka described it as “self-reflecting and conciliatory” saying it was understandable that the head of state had used the opportunity to assess his first year in office and explain some of his decisions to the public. Christian Democrat leader Pavel Belobradek described the address as “non-conflicting and suited to the occasion” while ANO deputy chair Vera Jourova and Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip both pointed out that the speech lacked vision and fresh goals for the future.
After the Christmas holidays President Zeman is due to meet with Social Democrat leader and the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka for talks on the line-up of a new centre-left government which has been taking shape. Mr. Sobotka is to present the president with a list of proposed cabinet ministers as agreed on by the three parties of the emerging coalition government. The meeting is not expected to be without controversy since Mr. Zeman has indicated he is not ready to accept the government line-up without reservations.
Czechs sent a record number of SMS messages over the Christmas holidays. Operators report 75.2 million messages sent which is 6.7 million more than last year and is an all-time record. People also made 42 million calls to friends and family – four million more than last year. This is being put down to lower tariffs introduced earlier this year and the fact that Czechs are fast abandoning the practice of sending each other hand-written greetings and New Years’ wishes.
Indoor sports facilities in Prague are open to the public for free from today until the end of the year. Over 100 such facilities have traditionally opened their doors in what is called a Week of Sport for Free. The event is intended to encourage more Prague inhabitants, particularly young people, to exchange the couch for the sport field or swimming pool. Last year 20,000 of the city’s inhabitants availed themselves of the opportunity. A list of the facilities open for free can be found at www.prahasportovni.cz
New Zealand police believe they have found the body of a young Czech reported missing on Christmas Eve. The dead body, found at Castle Rock, south of Castlepoint, has yet to be identified by the missing man’s family, but the description fits that of 34-year-old Miroslav Tvaroh who left home early on December 24th and failed to return. His partner informed the police who together with volunteers from the local surf club battled against strong winds in search of the missing man.
Strong winds have continued to cause problems in the Moravian-Silesian, Olomouc and Zlín regions in the north-eastern Czech Republic. Winds reaching hurricane-force in places have been uprooting trees, bringing down power lines and complicating traffic throughout the region. Police and fire fighters have been out in force dealing with the situation, responding to over 100 emergency calls in 24 hours.