Press Review

Today's MLADA FRONTA DNES continues to speculate on what some have described as the fire of the decade here in Prague. What caused the blaze that reduced the huge 19th-century Vinohrady Brewery to ashes and lit up Prague's skies on Monday night? The paper reckons that it might not have been an accident. The brewery had been empty for some time, and the owners were planning widespread development on the site. At the same time, Prague's architectural conservationists were trying to have it added to the list of protected historic monuments. Could it be, asks the paper, that the owners decided to preempt such a situation by putting the fate of the brewery into their own hands? We shall probably never know.

The eye-witness accounts of the blaze in today's CESKE SLOVO are reminiscent of the blitz. A ninety-year-old neighbour tells the paper of the searing heat, and she adds that for much of the night it was as bright as day. While she and other local residents were looking out to make sure the fire wasn't spreading, others spent the night carrying out coffee to the firemen, she recalls, adding that she was impressed by the bravery of the young firefighters.

While one historic Prague building was going up in smoke, renovations to another were just being completed. ZEMSKE NOVINY reports that restoration work on the Baroque spire of Saint Vitus' Cathedral has at last been completed. On Tuesday the final finishing touch was added. The huge gilded lion, symbolizing the Kingdom of Bohemia, was put back in pride of place atop the tower, a day late because of strong winds on Monday.

Could all this news of wind and fire be a bad omen for next month's IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague? Well, today's CESKE SLOVO doesn't seem to think so, and plays down widespread fears that anti-globalization demonstrations could reduce the city to anarchy. In a full-page article the paper writes that, on the contrary, the meeting should bring both and prestige and money to the Czech capital, as it did in the case of Madrid in 1994 and Hong Kong three years later. For example, surveys suggest that most of the important international investors who will be in Prague, have never been to the city before, and their visit could help both to put the Czech Republic on the map and to encourage direct investment, writes CESKE SLOVO.

And finally to LIDOVE NOVINY. Aptly enough in a week that has seen one Prague landmark turn to ashes, Health Minister Bohumil Fiser has launched an attack against smokers. In the near future life is going to get pretty tough for Czech smokers, the paper writes. Mr Fiser proposes a wide-reaching new anti-smoking law, and as LIDOVE NOVINY reports, this means that there'll be no more lighting up while you wait for the bus, and there'll be no smoking in restaurants during peak mealtimes. And most significantly, the law will be far tougher on anyone selling or offering tobacco products to people under 18. In fact children won't even be allowed to buy products that refer in some way to smoking, including cigarette-shaped chewing gum, a perennial favourite among Czech kids.