Syrian officials have freed a Czech citizen being held since the end of June. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the press on Saturday that Sandra Bitarová was safe and in good health. According to Czech Television, Bitarová lives permanently in Syria, where her father is from, and works in an advertising agency. She was detained for a day once this year already and Czech diplomats received no explanation. Her family says she is not politically active.
Around three dozen supporters of the Czech Pirate Party gathered in front of the Office for Personal Data Protection on Saturday to protest the European Indect project, aimed at connecting and assessing data from surveillance cameras. The Pirate Party maintains that the project jeopardises personal freedoms as the system regards them as potential criminals under the guise of thwarting terrorism.
Despite tough going in the actual arena on the first day, the Czech Olympic team scored fashion points at the start of the London games on Friday with original and witty uniforms. The 133 athletes appeared during the opening ceremony wearing blue and white suits topped off with wellington boots and parasols. While ‘wellies’ trended high on Twitter throughout the evening, the New York Times summarised the fashion spectacle as ‘Lauren vs. Rubber Wellies’ – comparing the Czech accessory to the US team’s, reportedly ‘controversial’, choice of berets and blazers by Ralph Lauren. BBC commentators themselves were also amused at the fashion quip on English weather.
The Czech team had worse results on the field on their first day of competition. The highest seeded tennis player Tomáš Berdych suffered a shocking upset on the central court at Wimbledon, losing to Belgian Steve Darcis in two sets, 6:4, 6:4. The 26-year-old can still hope for a victory in the doubles tournament, where he will be playing alongside Radek Štěpánek. Meanwhile, Kateřina Emmons lost her chance to defend her gold in rifling from Beijing, taking fourth place on Saturday morning, 1.2 points short of a bronze.
Better news for tennis world no. 4 Petra Kvitová, who narrowly defeated Kateryna Bondarenko on the first day of the Olympic Games. Kvitová won the first set handily from the Ukrainian but struggled in the second, ending the third in a close finish, 6:4, 5:7, 6:4. She will now continue to the second round.
Steel tycoon Tomáš Chrenek has donated nine million crowns to the presidential campaign of Jan Fisher. The owner of the Třinec Iron and Steel Works, Mr Chrenek is also behind the Barrandov film studios and TV Barrandov station. Regarding the donation, Chrenek said Jan Fischer was the most trustworthy of the candidates and someone who had proven that he was capable of leading both an important institution and the Czech government, as during his interim tenure between 2009 and 2010. Fischer, he said, had gained the respect of the Czech public and specialists. Mr Fischer is the current frontrunner in the first direction presidential election, which will be held early next year
The coalition party TOP 09 has released its balance sheet for the year. The party expects income of nearly 36 million crowns and expenses of about 33 million. A separate budget for this year’s autumn elections to the Senate and local bodies will consist of 26 million crowns to which the party’s partner organisation, Mayors and Independents, will contribute eight million. The party plans to invest six million in Senate races and 28 million in elections to regional councils.
President Václav Klaus has opened the Czech House in London’s Islington neighbourhood, which will serve as the country’s public hub for the Olympic Games. The large hall has space for 5,000 people and will be a meeting place for athletes and fans, sponsors and journalists. Concerts will also be held there, as will ceremonies for victorious Czech athletes. Czech Television has an open studio in the house, from which it will be broadcasting throughout the Olympics. A mechanical statue of a double-decker bus doing push-ups, the work of Czech artist David Černý, has reportedly drawn large numbers of passerby into the building.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says he will not dismiss Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš, provided the new vehicle registration system continues to function properly over the coming days. The system was seemingly in working order on Friday morning, though many registration offices were closed for the day and its maximum efficiency could not be put to the test. The prime minister gave Mr Dobeš an ultimatum this week as public discontent over the persistent malfunctions escalated, giving him until Friday to get the system in good working order or else resign. Following an all-night crisis meeting the system appeared to have been stabilized on Thursday with all stations processing applications, though at a slower pace than usual. Minister Dobeš has said he will leave his post if a single application is not processed on Friday. The Transport Ministry claims the most recent problems were caused not by the faultiness of the new system itself but by overloaded servers at the Police Presidium, which handle the Schengen Information System. The failing system has caused major problems for drivers since it was launched on July 9.
The Transport Ministry says that the new vehicle registration system contains incorrect owner information for about half a million cars and a total of more than a million errors in general. In some cases the system does not show the current owner of a vehicle but rather a previous owner. In other cases the owner cannot be identified through a database comparison. Licence plate numbers do not concur with their owners in some 21,000 cases and there are 7000 cases of duplicate Vehicle Identification Numbers.