In his annual Christmas address to the nation President Milǒs Zeman praised the government for unleashing the economy from what he called a straight jacket of austerity measures which had been introduced by previous centre-right governments. In his speech, he highlighted as crucial economic growth matched with low unemployment, a rise in the average monthly wage and improvement in old age pensions. Likewise, he praised 'economic diplomacy' pursued by the government as well as himself, with China, South Korea and other countries in Asia.
Noting past criticism charging that he lacked vision for the country, he reminded viewers watching the televised broadcast that he held in the highest regard the Scandinavian model of government, with high taxes, a tiered tax system, and strong social and health services.
President Zeman completed his address by discussing Europe's migrant crisis, questioning why lone young men forming part of the influx hadn't taken up arms against Islamic State to free their "own country". He called the migrant crisis "an invasion" and also responded to an NGO slogan from November 17 saying that refugees were welcome, by saying the Czech Republic was the Czechs' own and "did not and could not belong to all". The Christmas address was Mr Zeman's third since taking office.
Prague's Public Transport Authority has been ordered to pay 24 million crowns in damages to the owners of commercial space Palác Koruna on Wenceslas Square. The latter had filed charges against the transit authority for unjust enrichment. Two entrances into the Můstek metro station lie on an estimated 200 square metres belonging to the Art Nouveau complex. Its owners indicated the space could be leased. The management of Prague's Public Transport Authority has said it has not yet received the official ruling and will not comment for the time being; it can appeal the decision.
A sniffer dog, trained to search for evidence of quick burning flammables, has been used to search the premises of a family home in České Budějovice destroyed by an explosion and massive blaze on December 24. Three people - including a child - died in the fire. Once it was put out, crews worked to secure walls still standing and to remove surrounding debris but the house will not be salvaged. The cause of the explosion is not yet known.
Both online and 'brick and mortar' stores in the Czech Republic have launched or are preparing to launch post-Christmas sales, slashing prices on items by as much as 70 percent, the Czech News Agency reports. According to the news service, winter sporting goods are among products being sold at discounted prices; the unseasonably warm weather this December means items have not been moving off shelves quickly. Sellers are also betting on costumers who received cash gifts as presents on Christmas Eve. The head of one commercial website told ČTK that consumers at this time of year are especially interested in items focussing on self-improvement (tied to New Years resolutions) such as fitness club memberships, language or other courses, and health food.
Around 80 venues in the Czech capital, are offering free entry during sports week, lasting from December 25 to the 31st, daily newspaper Mf Dnes reports. Activities include free winter skating at Prague's Výstaviště fairgrounds and a chance to try non-winter sports such as rock-climbing, kickboxing and softball at various venues. The aim of the week is to help visitors shed extra kilos gained over the festive Christmas period, besides promoting sports activities and specific sites.
A record number of people – 339 – took part on Saturday in the 69th Alfréd Nikodém Memorial event, an annual swim in the Vltava River. 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 temperature of the water on Saturday was 6.9 degrees Celsius, the same as last year. Daytime highs were around 12 degrees Celsius with sunny conditions.
BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson has called Saturday's fixture between Arsenal and Southampton a "tricky one", suggesting that Arsenal, with goalkeeper Petr Čech needed to win if it wanted to win the league this year. Earlier in the week, Petr Čech, who joined the Gunners last summer from Chelsea, said in an interview that his club could go all the way, after Arsenal still found ways to win despite recent injuries.
Regarding injuries, Czech midfielder Tomáš Rosický is to reportedly return to training in three weeks. The Czech international has been out of action for eight months and had knee surgery in August.
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