Plzeň triumphs in culture capital bid

Photo: CTK

The Czech city of Plzeň – best known for its world-famous lager – has reason to celebrate: on Wednesday shortly after 4 pm, members of an international jury announced that it – and not rival Ostrava in the east of the country - had won the bid to become 2015’s European Capital of Culture. It will share the honour with the Belgian city of Mons.

Czech Culture Minister Jiří Besser,  Sir Robert Scott  (right),  photo: CTK
In the end there could be only one and the winner was Plzeň, successful over Ostrava in its bid to named European Capital of Culture for 2015. International jury head Sir Robert Scott brought the suspense to an end shortly after four in the afternoon on Wednesday, leading gathering crowds in Plzen to erupt in cheer and kick-off celebrations.

For good reason: the prestigious title will allow the west Bohemian town (like Belgium’s Mons) to showcase its cultural life and history for the period of one year. As the winner, the city of 170,000 inhabitants will be able to draw 1.5 million euros (the equivalent of around 38 million crowns) from European funds to go towards its cultural projects.

Ostrava,  photo: CTK
Which ones will the city be looking to complete? Among them are the renovation of a former brewery into a multi-genre cultural centre, and the construction of a new theatre.

By contrast, Ostrava as the other bidder, also planned plenty of changes, pledging to build a new concert hall, gallery and music pavilion. These projects will not be abandoned but will go ahead says Ostrava’s Mayor Petr Kajnar.

Celebrations in Plzeň,  photo: CTK
“We really have no other choice but to continue moving forward. Eight years ago the city and the region decided to tackle unemployment, to boost education, and to improve the cultural life. We wanted venues that would add to that, not only for locals, but also for investors and for new inhabitants. We wanted a city that is attractive and alive for Ostrava’s residents and for the Czech Republic. These plans coincided with the cultural capital bid and were not just for the sake of the project. That’s why they’ll continue.”

The international jury which chose Plzeň over Ostrava in a secret vote will keep 'mum' about the process, even if the decision was extremely close: six jury members in favour of Plzeň, five for Ostrava. Ostrava’s Mayor Petr Kajnar says it is difficult to guess why the jury decided the way it did, adding what’s done is done.

Plzeň,  photo: CzechTourism
“It’s impossible to know why the jury voted as it did. Only they know the answer. In this sense it’s a little bit like voting in figure skating: there you also have competitors whose performances are judged. Observers may give points according to their subjective point-of-view, or they may try to be more objective, but the person with the most votes wins.”

The jury’s choice of Plzeň still has to be confirmed by the EU but that is largely a formality, meaning Plzeň will become only the second Czech city to hold the prestigious title: the first was the capital Prague back in 2000.