Czech Winter Olympics team returns to Prague

Ales Valenta, photo CTK

So the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics are over and the Czech Republic has one gold medal - Ales Valenta's in the freestyle aerial skiing. On the Czech team's arrival back home this morning Ales Valenta and the head of the Czech Olympic Committee Milan Jirasek got straight off the plane and held a news conference at Prague airport. Milan Jirasek spoke first and he had this to say about his overall impressions of the Salt Lake City games. By Ian Willoughby.

Olympics are over, photo CTK
"The games were a surprise to me in the sense that the organising committee managed - in three years - to build everything up from the ashes, the ruins, of the corruption scandal about the candidatures. I think they put on a really great games, the atmosphere was really fantastic. It was a kind of reply to September 11 and everything which followed it."

There was one thing Milan Jirasek of the Czech Olympic Committee was less impressed by - the controversy surrounding the Russian team, who complained they were discrimated against.

"It was a big disappointment to me - I knew that it would leave a kind of shadow which damaged the whole impression of the games. It reminded me of the era when the Iron Curtain was still in place - it's a similar kind of attitude. I think they themselves felt that things were going bad over the doping issue so they tried to launch a counter-attack. I don't understand it. But threatening to boycott the Olympic games just cannot be allowed."

When Ales Valenta carried the Czech flag at the opening ceremony at Salt Lake City it was by default - bigger stars like the ice hockey team and skier Katerina Neumannova were not available. Valenta went on to win the only Czech gold of the games and returns home a huge star. At the news conference Ales Valenta had the air of a very happy man. How did he feel the morning after his great victory?

Ales Valenta, photo CTK
"The morning after I won I didn't sleep so I was kind of feeling the same way as I felt before. I was awake 42 hours, partly partying then I was checking the internet, then we went to see the hockey game and I was actually partying again the next night."

And Ales Valenta can expect more partying when he gets home to Sumperk in north Moravia. Does he know what kind of celebrations his hometown is planning?

"I heard about it but I'm going to be surprised when I get there - I want to be surprised."

By the way, the Czech post office are apparently planing to issue an Ales Valenta postage stamp.