Launch of book on Olympics offers chance to reflect on Czech achievements in Athens

Photographer Herbert Slavik and  decathlonist Roman Sebrle with the book Athens 2004, photo: CTK

This week saw the publication of a book simply entitled "Athens 2004" by Herbert Slavik, a Czech photographer who spent the recent Olympics chronicling the feats of the Czech team at the Games. The Czech Republic took one gold, three silver and four bronze medals in Athens, and the general secretary of the Czech Olympic Committee, Vladimir Dostal, says that was an achievement.

Photographer Herbert Slavik and Roman Sebrle with the book Athens 2004, photo: CTK
"In spite of the fact that a part of the Czech public think the success was not so great, I appreciate it very, very much. Watching during those 16 days many of the competitions, I found the competition was very, very hard. And each success - I mean fourth, fifth or sixth place - was something great."

Some time before the games Mr Dostal had said he was worried a bit about the preparations of the Greek organisers - his worries, like those of many people turned out to be unfounded.

"The expectations were rather...well, some people expected that there could be some problems. But I must say it was better than we all expected, from let's say transport, organisation, and the sports facilities were perfectly prepared. So I would say they were really good and better than we expected."

The only Czech to take gold was Roman Sebrle in the decathlon. He is full of praise for the atmosphere in Athens.

"In the Olympic Games there are many sports and it's very good if you meet in the Olympic village not just decathletes but other sportsmen, not just athletes. That's very nice. And the decathletes especially are a friendly group."

Was there a good atmosphere in the Czech team at the Olympics?

"Yes, it was, it was. In the Czech team there's a very good atmosphere always."

Roman Sebrle set a couple of personal records on his way to Olympic gold. But what was the highlight of his performance in the decathlon?

"The best moment for me was when I jumped five metres, because when I jumped it the first time I believed that I'd win."

That was in the pole vault?

"Yeah, in the pole vault."

When you achieved that you knew that was it - all you had to do was finish the event and you were the winner?

Libor Capalini, photo: CTK
"I didn't say that I'd make it, but I thought that I'd make it."

One of the other Czech Olympic medal winners was Libor Capalini, who won bronze in the modern pentathlon. Was he satisfied with third place in Athens?

"Yes, yes, I do sport 23 years and that was, I think, one of my top results in my sports career."

Modern pentathlon isn't one of the most popular sports in the Czech Republic - do you think it's possible that your success will inspire young people to take up the sport?

"Yes, I think so. Every similar result in smaller sports brings up these sports."