The Czech military is reportedly considering returning its L-159 fighter jets to manufacturer Aero Vodochody in exchange for upgrades on planes currently in use. According to public broadcaster Czech TV, the barter agreement would be worth between 20 and 40 million crowns – a fraction of the planes’ original price. Defence Ministry spokesman Jan Pejšek admitted the deal was a possibility. The Czech Republic has tried to sell its L-159s for several years now but without success. Manufacturer Aero Vodochody is dealing with Iraq but it is uncertain an agreement will be reached.
The country’s health minister, Leos Heger, has said that hospitals next year should get three percent more in health care funds than in 2010; he made the statement on Czech TV’s Sunday debate programme Otázky Václava Moravce. According to the minister, the bump should free-up state hospitals to pay rises for doctors of at least 6.25 percent; he suggested under certain circumstances the figure could rise to the 10 percent requested by the doctors’ unions. At the beginning of the year, doctors had threatened to leave en masse before reaching a deal with the minister in February. But since, Mr Heger has argued that the 10 percent target has been difficult to meet in light of the newest economic downturn.
The Prague district court ruled on Sunday that the head of the city’s municipal police force, Vladimír Kotrouš, will remain in custody, meeting a request by the state attorney who had expressed the concern that the police head could otherwise influence witnesses. Mr Kotrouš was stopped in his car in Prague on Friday afternoon after allegedly accepting a bribe – apparently related to the provision of services for the police force; unbeknownst to him he had been under investigation for some time. Members of the country’s anti-organised crime unit worked late into Friday evening securing evidence and sealing off the head office at Prague’s Municipal Police headquarters. Vladimír Kotrouš has headed Prague’s Municipal Police since 2002, but has been with the force ten years longer than that.
A rally by far-right extremists was held in the town of Vimperk, South Bohemia, on Saturday with around 300 people attending. The demonstration, organized by the ultra-right Workers’ Party of Social Justice, was held to criticize alleged problems with some town inhabitants presumably Romanies. The extremist party’s leader Tomáš Vandas spoke at the rally, claiming the situation in Vimperk – a town with 8,000 inhabitants – was deteriorating. By contrast, the police have said the crime rate in Vimperk is among the lowest in the South Bohemian region. Originally the demonstration was banned by the police over an anti-Romany discussion on facebook but the decision was overturned by the regional court. The rally saw no incidents.
The Ride of the Kings – an annual tradition practiced in the Slovácko region of southeastern Moravia in the Czech Republic has been entered onto UNESCO’s list recognizing intangible cultural heritage. The decision was taken by the UNESCO inter-government committee meeting in Bali, Indonesia. Overall, the committee is to assess 84 cultural traditions from around the world.
The famous Ride of the Kings is held in Hluk, Kunovice, Vlčnov and Skoronice - all in the Slovácko region. According to some researchers the tradition originated in pagan times when young boys competed in putting cattle out to pasture – where the best ‘became king’. Other ethnographers explain the origin of the ride as related to the flight of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus from Czech King George of Poděbrady in the 15th century. In order to mask his identity Corvinus dressed in women’s folk costume and put a rose in his mouth.
The folk festival is highly colorful and is accompanied by folk music. The Czech Republic sought the Ride of the Kings being added to the UNESCO heritage list for several years. The Ride of the Kings is not the first Czech tradition on the UNESCO list. The Slovácko folk dance of military recruits that originated in the 18th century was entered in 2005. The Shrovetide processions with masks in the region of Hlinsko, East Bohemia, as well as falconry, whose roots go back to the 9th century Great Moravian Empire, were added last year.
Pop diva Lucie Bílá, singer Karel Gott and hard rock band Kábat finished first in their respective categories at the Český slavík awards (Golden Nightingale) on Saturday. Bíla racked up the most overall votes – more than 42,000 – winning for best female singer; Gott received more than 32,000 votes to pick up his 37th award for best male performer. He jokingly reminded the audience that when he was first entered in the competition when it began he received only three votes. Gabriela Gunčíková won the award for best newcomer. The Český slavík awards, originally known as Zlatý slavík, have been running since 1962. The winners are voted by members of the public.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych was defeated by Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Playing in his first semi-final in the prestigious season-ending tournament, Berdych was unable to mount a convincing comeback after losing the first set 6:3. The second set was closer, finishing 7:5 in Tsonga’s favor. The win is Tsonga’s first against the Czech player who is the world No. 7.
Chelsea goalie Petr Čech kept a clean sheet against Wolverhampton, helping to turn around his team’s recent flagging fortunes. The London football club had lost three of its last four matches, as well as suffered defeat by Leverkusen in the group stage in the Champions League. But the squad was able to win 3:0 on Saturday, helping take some of the heat off team manager André Villas-Boas, who took over in the summer. Chelsea are currently fifth in the league.
Partly cloudy skies are expected into the new week, with daytime temperatures reaching highs between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.