Architect Jan Kaplický has changed the design of a planned new building for Prague’s National Library to bring the project in line with the city’s zoning laws. The planned building, nicknamed the Blob, has been designed for Prague’s Letná Plain. However, it has run into a number of obstacles, including failure to meet zoning laws. Mr Kaplický’s Future Systems architecture studio has made reductions to the size of the building in an effort to increase its chances of being built. The Blob is the most controversial building project in Prague in recent years, with its opponents saying it would be out of place on the city’s skyline.
Czech archaeologists have made what they have described as the discovery of the century. Archaeologists from the University of West Bohemian in Plzeň uncovered unique wooden constructions from the late Iron Age in a raised area in the Karlovy Vary region. They had been preserved by the wet conditions at the site of a former fish pond and have no equal either in value or number in the Czech Republic, one of the team involved in the discovery said.
Police have charged a group of Vietnamese citizens with the cultivation and sale of marijuana. Police uncovered 50 kilos of the drug and over 3,000 marijuana plants during a series of raids in Ústí nad Labem. Nine arrests were made in Ústí, while three more Vietnamese were later detained in Prague. Police said the group were exporting the marijuana to the Netherlands and Germany.
All the tickets for two NHL ice hockey games in Prague in October have been sold. Around 10,000 tickets for the games between New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at the city’s O2 Arena sold out in just over a day. The two matches will open the 2008-2009 hockey season and will be the first ever NHL matches held in the Czech Republic.
Over 250 Czechs have applied for asylum in Canada since Ottawa introduced visa-free travel for Czechs five months ago, the Canadian Embassy in Prague said on Monday. Ottawa imposed travel restrictions on Czechs in 1997, in reaction to a flood of asylum seekers. It eventually lifted them ten years later, on November 1, 2007. In the first five months of visa-free travel, 261 Czechs have sought asylum in Canada. But the Canadian Embassy said on Tuesday that there was no risk of Ottawa re-introducing visa requirements in light of the figures. The Czech Republic does not yet enjoy permanent visa-free relations with Canada, but a spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry said that the two governments were closely cooperating on the matter.
The Cuban press has accused the Czech ambassador to the United States of working for the CIA, writes Hospodářské noviny on Tuesday. The paper Granma Internacional claims that Petr Kolář was selected and recruited by the CIA in the late 1980s. The Czech Foreign Ministry has responded by saying that the claims are ‘nonsense’ and deserve no further reaction. The Czech Republic has long been a strong critic of Fidel Castro’s regime. The Czech ambassador in the US, Petr Kolář, recently told an American newspaper that Cubans should ‘take the situation into their own hands’ and strive for regime change.
The Prague-based broadcaster Radio Free Europe has said that several of its websites had been attacked on Monday, suggesting that the Belarussian government could be to blame. The network said in a statement that the assault had begun on Saturday and had not yet been countered. Radio Free Europe’s Belarussian service has been the worst affected by the bug, though web sites serving Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan have also been hit. The station moved its headquarters to Prague from Munich, Germany, in 1995. It broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries including, most recently, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Politicians signed a memorandum on Tuesday which pledged to redirect Prague’s ‘Magistrála’ – a main traffic artery which leads through the heart of the capital. Transport Minister Ales Řebíček, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek all put their signatures to the document. The plan is to shift the motorway, which currently cuts across the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square, underground, and to scale down its capacity. Prague City Hall has said that the memorandum is by no means binding, but that it would like to see the project realized by 2014.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has said that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will not be visiting Prague next week at least in part because Czech officials would not have enough time to speak to her about important matters. It was announced on Monday that Mrs Rice, who was due to arrive in Prague on May 5 to sign an agreement paving the way for a US radar on Czech soil, would not have the time to visit. But on Tuesday, the Czech Foreign Ministry said that on that date it would be playing host to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and so it would not have time for talks with Mrs Rice. The treaties which Mrs Rice was expected to sign next week have been shelved until June, Czech Prime Minsiter Mirek Topolánek said Monday.
Prague’s equivalent of London’s Hyde Park, where demonstrations can be held without a permit, will remain Palackého náměstí, Rudolf Blažek from Prague City Hall said Tuesday. The city hall was considering moving the capital’s speaker’s corner to Letná in Prague 6 or Vypich in Prague 7. But councilors in both of these districts were unhappy with the proposals and so no such move will be made, Mr Blažek said. The council has, however, extended the number of days on which a permit will be needed to protest on the square. Those wishing to stage a demonstration on May 1, September 28, October 28 or November 17 must now seek approval to do so in advance.