An additional five skiers have been nominated to the Czech Olympic team ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, the head of the Czech Olympic Committee Milan Jirásek revealed on Thursday. The number of Czech sportsmen and women taking part will be 93 in total. The support team will count an additional 95 persons. Among the additional skiers nominated is 23-year-old freestyle specialist Martina Konopová, who placed 10th at the World Cup event at Mont Gabriel, Quebec, in January 2009. She has not competed on snow since last February, after falling out with her former trainer and temporarily being taken off the national team. She trained jumps on water until last November.
A 16-year-old pitching prodigy from the Czech Republic, Štepán Havlíček, has signed a minor-league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, the US Major League Baseball club announced on Wednesday. Havlíček pitched for the Czech junior national team and struck out 13 batters in 11 1/3 scoreless innings during the European Junior Championships last August in Germany. According to sources, the Rays said Havlíček will likely attend some portion of spring training, which begins in late February, and play in Major League Baseball's Australia Academy later this year. The training will help determine at what level of the minor-league developmental system Havlíček might start in his pursuit of one day reach the roster of the Rays, who lost to Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series.
The Czech minister of defence, Martin Barták, and the chief of staff of the country’s army, Vlastimil Picek, have reversed a decision to have all Czech soldiers inoculated against the swine flu virus. The turnaround was announced on Wednesday after the Czech president, Václav Klaus, issued a statement condemning blanket vaccinations of troops; the president said soldiers ought to be allowed to decide for themselves on the matter and should not be treated as guinea pigs. Meanwhile, the number of deaths from swine flu in the Czech Republic has risen to 95, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Thirty percent fewer Czechs took sick leave from work in 2009 than in the previous year, according to figures from the country’s social welfare authority quoted by Lidové noviny. Figures for last year were as much as 40 percent lower than in 2007, the newspaper said. The fall is evidently due to a change in the benefits system under which no money is paid during the first three days of an illness. The man behind that change, former social affairs minister Petr Necaš, said absenteeism in the Czech Republic had simply fallen to normal levels for European Union states.
Two men were arrested after a shooting incident at a graveyard in the Moravian town of Opava on Wednesday. The two raided the funeral services office at the cemetery where one of them shot an undertaker, aged 24, in both legs after ordering his colleague to leave the office. The Czech News Agency reported that the gunmen had accused the victim of stealing tens of thousands of crowns from the flat of one of the two’s late father; they said that when the body had been removed the cash had also disappeared.
A Prague court has overturned a ban on the Communist Youth Union. In 2006 the Ministry of the Interior outlawed the young Communists on the grounds that their manifesto was in contravention of both the Czech constitution and the country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, the Prague City Court overruled that decision on Wednesday. It had previously thrown out a lawsuit from the Communist Youth Union, but was ordered to hear the latest complaint by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Temperatures fell to as low as -30.7 degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night, the coldest night so far this year. Record lows of around -25 were recorded at several places. Tuesday’s freeze caused railway tracks to crack in some parts of the country, leading to delays. One man froze to death in the Prague district of Jinonice during the night, some people were treated for frostbite, and a boat used as a shelter for the homeless in the Czech capital housed 259 people, the most ever seen for one night. Forecasters said temperatures would rise on Wednesday, but warned of snow and strong winds. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the country was -42.2 degrees Celsius, in 1929.
The Holocaust represented pure evil that could be reawakened in the future, the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, said at a ceremony at the Czech Senate marking Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday. He said the Holocaust defied comprehension and belief, adding that such evil remained within mankind and could, unfortunately, be revived. Mr Fischer is himself of Jewish origin and has in recent years developed an interest in the religion. January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp in 1945.
The Czech Minister for the Environment Jan Dusík has sidestepped a decision over an environmental impact assessment for ČEZ’s modernisation of a controversial coal plant. The assessment will now be given to a foreign company. Czech power giant ČEZ is planning to invest 25 billion crowns at Pruněřov in the northwest of the Czech Republic. The name of the company tasked to carry out the assessment will be published by the end of the week. Czech and international environmental groups as well as the small Pacific island state of Micronesia oppose the expansion of the plant on grounds that it will cause environmental damage and contribute to the raising of sea levels. ČEZ claims that the new plant will have a 39-percent efficiency rating.
One hundred and fifty-seven new cases of HIV were recorded in the Czech Republic in 2009, the highest number ever for a single year, according to figures released by the National HIV/AIDS Programme. In 2008 148 fresh cases were discovered. To date a total of 1,344 people are known to have contracted HIV in the Czech Republic; some 292 of them developed AIDS, of which 156 died.