Jiří Guth-Jarkovský

In this week’s Mailbox we find out the identity of March’s mystery man and announce the four winners who will receive small gifts for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Swopan Chakroborty, Helmut Matt, Jaromír Hauzar, Li Xuewei, Constatnin Liviu Viorel, Pier Carlo Acchino, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Ian Morrison, Colin Law, Charles Konecny, David Eldridge.

Hello! If you are eager to find out who the mystery man in Radio Prague’s March competition was or whether the answer you sent in was correct – Mailbox is the right programme for you. Thank you for tuning in. We asked you to tell us the name of a man who besides being a writer, translator, teacher and President Masaryk’s master of ceremonies was also one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee.

The first one to answer was our longtime listener Swopan Chakroborty from Kolkata.

“The name of the mystery man in question is Jiří Guth-Jarkovský.”

Helmut Matt listens to Radio Prague in Germany:

“This month’s mystery person actually had many names. His writings were published under the pseudonyms Gaston Humbert, Jan Chvojan, Jiří Murdoch, Jiří Jarkovský, Stanislav Jarkovský or A. Záruba. His real name was Jiří Guth. After 1920 he called himself Jiří Stanislav Guth-Jarkovský.”

From the German city of Frankfurt, Jaromír Hauzar wrote:

“However funny but true – there is absolutely no clue of him on any info web site of [his native] town of Heřmanův Městec... sic transit gloria mundi?”

... or “thus passes the glory of the world”. To be fair they do have a street named after him in Heřmanův Městec...

Li Xuewei listens in China:

When Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, he assembled twelve colleagues around him – one of them was Jiří Guth. Thanks in no small part to the work of Jiří Guth, the founder of the Czech Olympic Committee and his close friend Pierre de Coubertin, Czechs finally succeeded in taking part in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900 for the first time. In order to commemorate this outstanding figure, the ‘Jiří Guth-Jarkovský prize’ is awarded by the Czech Olympic Committee for the best sports performance of the year.”

Constatnin Liviu Viorel writes from Romania:

“Jiří Stanislav Guth Jarkovský [...] met Mr. Coubertin during his studies in Paris. This was the beginning of a long friendship and cooperation of Pierre de Coubertin and Jiří Stanislav Jarkovský. He did not represent Austria but the Kingdom of Bohemia. He founded the Czech Olympic Committee with Josef Rössler Ořovský on May 18, 1899.”

Pier Carlo Acchino found an interesting anecdote about Jarkovský’s colleague Ořovský:

“When the Germans and Austrians announced that the Czechs were not allowed to enter the Olympic Games independently, he showed the Olympic Committee an Austrian ten-crown coin bearing an inscription which stated that Franz Josef I, the Austrian emperor, was also the Czech King. For the delegates, especially the English ones, this settled the argument: if they had a Czech king, they had a right to enter independently. In 1912, eight members of the Czech Yachting Club competed in the Stockholm Olympic Games, with Rössler-Ořovský and Dr. Guth-Jarkovský leading the group.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty from New Delhi sent in a long answer:

“Since then this vibrant and dynamic sporting nation has never looked back. It has won several medals and worldwide acclaim in all the Olympic Games held till date to showcase the nation's prowess in the sporting arena. We here in India salute the Czechs for their spectacular achievements. This great personality was also instrumental in persuading major politicians of his time about the importance and benefits of Olympic Games for the republic. However, previous attempts to hold the Olympic Games in Prague (in 1920 and 1980) were unsuccessful due to political factors. It is highly hoped that Czechs' bid to hold the Olympics Games either in 2016 or 2020 will be fruitful. The country has given the world not only excellent sportsmen but innovators as well. The contribution of František Janda-Suk for his revolutionary technique to the discus throw (with a spin) is a case in point. Meanwhile our best wishes go out to the Czech contingent for greater glory and success in the forthcoming Beijing Olympics.”

And it is from Beijing that we got this email from our longtime listener Ian Morrison:

“The name of the multi-talented Czech man who was one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee was Jiří Guth-Jarkovský. I must say that I really enjoy your quizzes, as they make me put my thinking cap on and I always find out something new and interesting about your country.”

Colin Law from New Zealand wrote:

“By 1920, Jiří Guth-Jarkovský was International Olympic Committee General Secretary and master of ceremonies to Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, a post he held until retirement in 1925. Guth had visited the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 and, inspired with the concept of holding the games in Prague, he proposed the Prague Olympics to Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš. Beneš, who became prime minister, promised everything to Guth, however the plan was thwarted by IOC President, Pierre de Coubertin, who wanted the Olympic Games to be held in France to coincide with his retirement, so the Prague bid did not succeed.”

Interestingly, among Czechs, Jiří Guth-Jarkovský is primarily known as a teacher of etiquette and manners, and Colin Law also writes about that part of Guth’s career.

“Jiří Stanislav Guth-Jarkovský was an author of some note. He wrote novels, travelogues and magazine articles in addition to translating works of famous authors. [...] He also wrote about etiquette and his ‘Rudiments of Social Upbringing’, ‘Social Catechism’ and ‘The Art of Serving Meals and Laying Tables’ became an acknowledged standards for the rules of social behaviour.”

Charles Konecny writes from Ohio:

“He worked very hard to bring the Olympic Games to Prague, only to be stymied, once by politics, and again by the start of World War 2. Three cheers for the Czechs to get the next Olympic Games when they are awarded. And if they do, they should give Jiří a prominent place in recognition of his efforts.”

And finally David Eldridge from England:

“The mystery person for March 2008 was the subject of a 1996 Czech postage stamp of face value for the then international letter rate of nine Czech crowns sixty hellers. The stamp was to commemorate the centenary of the New Age Olympic Games. [...] Jiří Guth-Jarkovský represented the Czech nation on that committee even though Czechs then had no sovereign state and it is through Guth-Jarkovský's efforts that the Olympic movement took hold in Bohemia. He died in January 1943 by which time the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee had reverted to the Czech Olympic Committee in 1939 under the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.”

Thank you again for your effort and time! This month the prizes go to Jayanta Chakrabarty from India, Swopan Chakroborty also from India, Li Xuewei from China and Charles Konecny from the United States. Congratulations to all and your prizes will be posted first thing on Monday morning.

For those of you who would like to give it another try, here’s another chance to win Radio Prague goodies. For the April competition we stay with the Olympics:

Our mystery lady was born in Prague in 1932. As a student of medicine she took up the discus and won gold at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. There she fell in love with the American gold medal winning hammer thrower. The couple got married in Prague but she was no longer allowed to represent communist Czechoslovakia. At the subsequent four Olympic Games she represented the US and even carried the US flag at the opening ceremony of the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Please send us your answers to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague and don’t forget about Radio Prague’s annual writing contest– this year also concerning Czech sport. All the details can be found on our website or in our programmes throughout the week. Until next week, take care.