Press Review

The front pages of all today's dailies carry large photos of the Czech cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova who won the first medal for the Czech Republic at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on Saturday. All the papers celebrate the athlete's success and draw attention to the fact that Neumannova won her medal in the very first event of the Olympics.

"Bronze is just like victory for me," Mlada fronta Dnes quotes the happy skier and notes that it was the 29th Czech medal in the history of the Winter Olympics and the 3rd Olympic medal for 28-year old Neumannova who has a silver and a bronze medal from Nagano.

The daily Pravo reports on the fault at the Temelin nuclear power station which shut down the first reactor on Thursday - describing it as the most serious in the plant's history. The chairwoman of the State Office for Nuclear Safety Dana Drabova told Pravo that too many things did not function properly in the non-nuclear part of the circulation system and all the faults combined to cause a shock to the system. The plant is expected to be re- launched at the beginning of next week.

The Czech Republic exported at least 250 military vehicles to China and North Korea between 1993 and 1997, Mlada fronta Dnes reports. The Czech Army had decommissioned the trucks and at least 40 of them were converted into rocket-launcher carriers. The company KAMO from the south Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice exported the trucks via Slovakia and Ukraine.

What makes the transaction even more remarkable, says Mlada fronta Dnes, is that KAMO's lawyer at that time was the Communist MP Vojtech Filip. Mr Filip says the licence for export to China was in order and that he doesn't know where the trucks ended up. Mlada fronta Dnes writes the US President George Bush included North Korea in what he called the "axis of evil" in a speech last week. The foreign press often mentions the Czech Republic in connection with exports of weapons to what the author calls problem countries.

Czech primary schools have to resort to ever more cunning methods of luring new pupils Mlada fronta Dnes says. There are fewer and fewer children born in the Czech Republic and schools, which receive state subsidies per head, need to fight for new pupils.

Some schools are sending their teachers to kindergartens dressed up in animal costumes to give away little presents and persuade children they would be better off in that particular school than in any other. Some schools send personal letters to parents and some even spread nasty rumours about their competition. Since the year 2000, seventy primary schools have had to be closed down for lack of pupils, Mlada fronta Dnes writes.

Lidove noviny reports on the gala ball of the ruling Social Democratic Party at Prague's Zofin palace. Regional members of the party who came to Prague to see their leaders in the flesh must have been rather disappointed. The chairman of the party Vladimir Spidla and the Interior Minister Stanislav Gross arrived without their wives and Gross, who did not dance at all, left after an hour.

The Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr cried off saying he had problems with his leg, the Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart was down with the flu, the Foreign Minister Jan Kavan was on a foreign trip and the Culture Minister Pavel Dostal did not specify the reason for his absence. Prime Minister Milos Zeman did not turn up either. It came as no surprise as he had already missed several of his party's balls in recent years, says Lidove noviny.