A ceremony was held at the Czech Radio building in Prague on Saturday honouring the victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Warsaw Pact troops had entered the country during the previous night, halting the liberalisation reforms of the Prague Spring. Speaking at Saturday’s memorial ceremony, the chairman of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka, paid tribute to the Czechoslovak Radio journalists who had kept the public informed about the invasion; he said that listeners did not hear the truth again until 21 years later, when the communist regime fell. Over 100 people were killed in the violence that followed the occupation. The greatest losses were recorded at the Czech Radio building on Vinohradská St, which had become a rallying point for resistance.
A member of the audience committed suicide during a concert by the Czech musician Markéta Irglová and her group The Swell Season in the US city of Saratoga on Thursday night. The man jumped from the roof that covered the venue’s stage, landing on the podium and dying instantly. The band extended their sympathies to the victim’s family and friends in an internet post. Markéta Irglová and The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard won an Academy Award for best original song for their composition Falling Slowly in February 2008, just days before her 20th birthday. She is the only Czech woman to have ever won an Oscar.
Three people were injured when the car they were driving in was hit by a train at a level crossing near Hradec Králové in east Bohemia on Saturday. One of the three is in a serious condition, a spokesman for Czech Railways told reporters. The level crossing did not have gates, but a system of traffic lights was working at the time of the collision, he said. Such accidents are not uncommon in the Czech Republic. Last month five people died in 15 collisions at level crossings around the country.
Olympic javelin champion Barbora Špotáková has announced that she will be trained next season by the greatest athlete in the history of the discipline, her Czech compatriot Jan Železný. Špotáková holds the women’s record in the javelin, while Železný, who retired in 2006, holds the men’s record. The move brings to an end the 29-year-old’s association with trainer Rudolf Černý, and comes after a season in which she suffered injury problems and came third at the European Championships in Barcelona.
Tomáš Ujfaluši has ruled out returning to the Czech football squad. The defender, who is 32, captained the team before quitting international soccer after being criticised for going out drinking after a game. The Czechs’ team manager Vladimír Šmicer recently asked Ujfaluši to reconsider his decision to retire, and there were press reports that he could make a comeback. However, the Atletico Madrid player has scotched that suggestion, telling reporters he had not given the matter any thought. The Czech team have largely failed to impress since Michal Bílek was appointed trainer last October. Their campaign to reach the 2012 European Championship begins in a few weeks’ time.
The Czech Republic took bronze in the K4 1000 metres category at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Poland’s Poznan on Saturday, when Ondřej Horský, Jan Souček, Daniel Havel and Jan Štěrba finished behind France and last year’s winners Belarus. The Czech team had previously taken two bronze medals at the European Championships.
There were nearly 1,400 recorded cases of people being attacked by animals in the Czech Republic last year, according to figures just released by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics. Around three quarters of the cases involved dogs biting people. There were no fatalities, though 11 deaths have been caused by dog bites in the Czech Republic since the year 2000. A quarter of the victims of animal attacks ended up in hospital; a similar percentage were children.
The third annual Dvořák Prague Festival got underway in Prague on Friday with a performance of the composer’s New World Symphony by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the city’s Rudolfinum. The festival, which runs for two weeks, features 16 concerts, most of them at the same venue’s Dvořák Hall. All in all, 12 pieces by Antonín Dvořák are being performed; the programme also includes work by other composers.
The Welsh group Manic Street Preachers performed to thousands of fans at one of the Czech Republic’s biggest rock music events, the Open Air Music Festival in the east Bohemian town of Trutnov, on Friday night. Other performers included The Glitter Band and the Czech artists DG 307 and Michal Hrůza. The Trutnov festival first took place in 1987, two years before the fall of the communist regime. This year over 100 groups and solo musicians are performing on four stages over four nights.
Senior Czech and Polish officials on Friday unveiled a monument in Prague honouring a Pole who died in 1968 after setting himself on fire to protest the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The monument commemorates Ryszard Siwiec, who set himself alight on September 8, 1968 in a packed stadium in the Polish capital Warsaw, where a crowd of 100,000 including senior communist leaders were attending a festival. Poland's communist regime took part in the invasion, sparking the desperate step by Siwiec, a veteran of the non-communist World War II resistance. The father of five died of burns on September 12, 1968.