Press Review

It's not very often that a sports-related story receives front-page coverage in all the national dailies. But today, all papers lead with the sad news of the death of the Czech long-distance running legend and probably one of the best athletes of all times, Emil Zatopek.

MLADA FRONTA DNES describes Zatopek as one of the world's great sportsmen. The paper quotes his main rival, French athlete Alain Mimoun, who said "I haven't lost an opponent. I've lost a brother."

The paper also relates the story, which should probably be taken with more than a pinch of salt, that Zatopek ran so fast to his 5,000 m Olympic gold at the Helsinki Games in 1952 because he didn't want to be hit by the javelin thrown by his wife Dana.

LIDOVE NOVINY recalls that Zatopek's illustrious career actually started by accident, or rather, the refusal of a doctor to declare him ill in 1942. While working for the Bata shoe company, the 19-year-old was ordered by his boss to take part in a cross-country run.

But Zatopek wasn't interested, and tried to convince the doctor to declare him ill. The doctor refused, which prompted Zatopek to give it all he had in the race. "Now that I have to run I want to win," he said to himself. The rest is history, says LIDOVE NOVINY.

And PRAVO, which describes Zatopek's death as the end of an era, quotes the athlete and army officer as saying recently that he had been actually ordered by his commanders to retake the gold medal in the 10,000-metre event.

His Finnish rival Heino broke Zatopek's world record of 1948, but the only time the Czech runner was allowed to train in the army was late in the evening. So he humbly requested three days of leave to spend on exercise and preparation.

"Special leave granted to Second Lieiutenant Zatopek for three days, to regain world title," read the army circular issued by the Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff. "Second Lieutenant Zatopek to report back to base when his assignment has been carried out." Three days later, the famous runner reclaimed the world champion's title at an athletic meet in the North Moravian town of Vitkovice.

Away from the legend now, Mikulov in South Bohemia is where I'd rather be. As reported by MLADA FRONTA DNES, over 30,000 litres of quality red wine were spilled on the road when a tanker truck crashed in the main square. Over one million crowns' worth of premium Frankovka dry red was lost because of the recklessness of the truck's Slovak driver, who left the lorry unattended on a slope, the paper reports.

And finally, few Czechs eat beef nowadays, in the wake of the latest revelations about mad cow disease. But as ZEMSKE NOVINY points out, some of their eating habits would cause quite a stir among dyspeptic Eurocrats in Brussels. Pigs are being slaughtered throughout the Czech countryside, which is the sure sign of an approaching Christmas.

Pork is being processed into miscellaneous delicacies a European official would find hard to swallow, such as chitterlings, liver sausage and brawn. Prime samples of sausages made with "disgusting offal" are shown on a mouth-watering photograph on page 3. They come from a 250-pound porker slaughtered in gory ritual on a village green near the North Bohemian town of Most.

Author: Libor Kubík
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