The head of the trade union umbrella organisation ČMKOS, Jaroslav Zavadil, has estimated that a major demonstration held in Prague by the unions on Saturday will cost around 4.5 million crowns. Speaking on Czech TV, he said the sum was roughly half that of a similar demonstration last autumn. Costs were linked, at least in part to hundreds of buses for protestors, he suggested. More than 40,000 people gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Saturday to send a message to the government they were against planned reforms in the pension, social and health care systems. Opponents charge the reforms have been poorly and hastily planned, without proper debate, and warned they will hurt Czech citizens and employees. The minister for labour and social affairs, Jaromír Drábek, countered by saying he put stock in proper talks over ‘shouting’ on the square, accusing the trade unions themselves of refusing to sit down at the negotiating table.
The retirement age level that is now being gradually raised could be lowered by one or two years for those who are now in their 20s - if the demographic development improves, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek said on Sunday. Speaking on Czech TV, Mr Drábek reacted to the opposition Social Democrats´ effort, with the help of the Senate, to abolish the automatic raising of retirement age for people born after 1977. Now, the retirement age is being gradually raised to 65 years for both men and women by 2035. The right-wing dominated Chamber of Deputies has approved the proposal, but the Social Democrats have an absolute majority in the Senate.
Under the government proposal, Czechs born at the beginning of the century will retire at the age of 71. Social Democrat Vladimír Špidla, the former Czech European commissioner for social affairs, employment and equal opportunities, told Czech TV that it was “correct” to raise the retirement age but stressed it should be linked to “the median length of life in good health”.
An outdoor exhibition honouring Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the rescue of nearly 700 mostly Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, opened at Prague’s Vyšehrad Park on Saturday. A parallel exhibit at London’s Liverpool Street Station also began on the same day. The exhibits feature large-scale photographs devoted to the theme of Winton’s train, which carried 669 Jewish children to safety, from Prague to London, in 1939. They later came to be known as “Winton’s Children.” Sir Winton, who celebrates his 102nd birthday on Thursday, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A new drama-documentary detailing his incredible story premiered in January of this year and was shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
On Saturday, the event in Prague was attended by the British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Sian Macleod, Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Miroslava Němcová and Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra. They, together with some of those saved by Sir Winton, sent him best wishes by phone to London.
Police arrested a 37-year-old man in the Trutnov area on Saturday after he threatened to kill his sister and warned that he had a bomb in his home. After the police were alerted to the threat, the suspect barricaded himself inside his house before trying to escape and hide in the nearby forests. The man was apprehended when police negotiators called him on his phone and talked him into meeting. Prior to his arrest, and before trying to run again, he had requested water and cigarettes. He was taken into custody; nobody was hurt in the incident.
Two warehouse halls near Brno, containing plastic flowers, candles, ceramics and other decorative items, burned to the ground on Saturday night, with damage being estimated between eight to 10 million crowns. A spokesman for the fire fighters in the area, who responded to the blaze, said that at one point flames lashed as high as 20 metres. Fifteen units were called in to put the fire out. Specialists are measuring possible ecological damage, taking samples of chemicals and liquids at the site which reportedly leaked into local the sewer system on Sunday morning.
The legendary New York Philharmonic will perform in Prague on Tuesday under the direction of head conductor Alan Gilbert. It will be only the third time the philharmonic, which is the oldest in the US, will perform in the Czech capital. During almost 170 years of its existence the philharmonic was headed by such illustrious names as Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein. On Tuesday, the philharmonic will perform works by Bartok and Beethoven.
Several hundred people – in gory make-up and costumes – took part on Saturday in the annual ‘Zombie Walk’ in Prague. The event began in the Malá strana quarter with the zombies making their way, moaning and groaning, across Charles Bridge to the Old Town Square. The event echoes similar walks in other parts of the world, including the US. The horror ‘happening’ draws as inspiration the zombie genre, more or less invented by American filmmaker George A. Romero, author of two of the best-known zombie movies in film history: 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, and its follow-up Dawn of the Dead. The first tells the story of survivors trying to hide from the undead in a country house, the latter of four hoping to survive the zombie plague in a Pittsburgh mall.
Football’s Viktoria Plzeň have clinched the league title for the first time in the club’s history, cementing their hold on the top spot with a 3:1 win over Ostrava on Saturday, one round before the end of the season. A full stadium of 8,000 as well as thousands of more fans on the city square watched the historic result. In the past, Plzeň brought up some of the country’s best players, among them goalkeeper Petr Čech and now retired midfielder Pavel Nedvěd, but never before come close to winning the league. Celebrations erupted when Plzeň team captain Pavel Horváth was handed the league cup by Czech FA head Ivan Hašek.
In related news, at the bottom of the table it is clear which two clubs will be relegated to the 2nd league next season: Brno, who are second-to-last, join Ústí nad Labem after losing 1:0 against Příbram. By contrast, Dukla Prague will make a triumphant return to the top league after a 17 year absence.
Footballer has become only the third Czech player to ever win the French league: the two previous ones were Vladimír Šmicer (with Lens) and Milan Baroš (with Lyon). Rozehnal plays for Lille, who secured the top spot in the French league on Saturday after earning a 2:2 draw against Paris St. Germain. The Czech player is on loan from Hamburg and, although benched on Saturday, played in 13 league games this season, scoring once.
Partly cloudy skies, with some sunny periods, are expected on Monday. Temperatures should drop slightly from the previous days to around 20 degrees Celsius.