Press Review

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Czechs clinch their first gold Olympic medal in Sydney, the police lay siege to the Prague Congress Centre where world bankers will hold their financial Olympics shortly, and a rather unusual theme for a new Czech opera. These are some of the interesting stories handpicked by Rob Cameron and Libor Kubik from Tuesday's Czech press.

The start of the IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague may be headline news, but in a rare display of unity and patriotic frenzy, all Czech papers today carry large front-page photos of whitewater kayak champion Stepanka Hilgertova, who clinched the first gold medal for the Czech Republic on Monday at the Sydney Olympics, repeating her success from the last Olympic Games. LIDOVE NOVINY notes that Ms. Hilgertova has become only the fourth Czech athlete in history to successfully defend her Olympic title. The previous three were long-distance runner Emil Zatopek, gymnast Vera Caslavska, and javelin wizard Jan Zelezny. And ZEMSKE NOVINY reports that Stepanka chased away her husband who jumped into water to kiss and hug her after the race for fear of being disqualified by the jury.

The Prague Congress Centre is under police siege, LIDOVE NOVINY says. The huge edifice, the venue of the IMF/World Bank's autumn session, is off-limits for people without entry permits. Seventy-year-old Marie Matulkova normally visits her friend living near the Centre once a week. But yesterday, for the first time in ten years, she was unable to use her normal metro exit. Part of the Vysehrad metro station has been cordoned off, and the confused lady said she was disoriented and didn't know any other way to reach her friend's flat.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports that 2,000 journalists have so far received accreditation for the annual meeting, but many of them had trouble yesterday connecting their computers and using mobile and card phones in the newly opened press centre. The paper quotes William Murray of the IMF staff as saying such problems are normal prior to large-scale events. But a Bloomberg technician told the paper that the problem was worse than it seemed. Ninety-nine percent of journalists faced formidable problems on Monday, he said.

On the same topic: wash properly, don't chew, don't smoke and refrain from overtly sexual behaviour in public. Some free advice to young female volunteers working for the summit, notes today's PRAVO. It comes from the brochure on IMF etiquette and communication, distributed by the Czech Ministry of Finance. Cleavage should be concealed at all times, miniskirts should be left in the wardrobe, and bras should be mandatory, although their absence could work wonders with world bankers, the brochure admits. Men's suits should be gray flannel although blue is also acceptable. Be punctual, be there when your presence is required, and, please, forget those terrible Czech greetings "cau" and "nashle".

MLADA FRONTA DNES relates the story of two Czech peacekeepers in Bosnia who say they were falsely accused of raping a female sergeant of the U.S. Army. The story inspired Czech jazzman Emil Viklicky's first opera, Phaedra, to be produced on Wednesday in Prague's prestigious State Opera House. What happened at an IFOR post at Donja Ljubija a few years ago? Well according to the Czech side of the story, the female sergeant took a liking to a Czech serviceman and one thing led to another. Later that evening she noticed that her lover's companion was not without his charms, either. And again, one thing led to another. In the morning, claim the two men, she changed her mind and reported double rape. In other words, MLADA FRONTA DNES concludes, a typical Phaedra, the fury that haunted Ovid thousands of years ago. But an opera? Well, anything goes...

Authors: Rob Cameron , Libor Kubík
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