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Czech Republic National Day Reception

The Czech Republic National Day Reception took place at the Czech Embassy in London on October 25. Among the distinguished guests were members of the British Parliament, representatives of the British government, ambassadors, representatives of Czech organizations in the UK and members of the public.

Ambassador´s remarks at the Czech Republic National Day Reception

My Lords, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Those of you who are as chronologically challenged as I am may remember a hilarious weekly TV comedy programme presented by David Frost, That Was The Week That Was. Although this year is not yet quite over, I feel very much the same about it. What a year, and especially in London!

There have been so many spectacular events and astonishing feats this year that I do not even know where to start. While we in the rest of Europe had been preoccupied with our boring crises and elections, here they went from strength to strength attaining, as W.H. Auden would put it, ‘Deeds quite impossible for Man’. Imagine, for example, Chelsea winning the Champion’s League! Of course they had a Czech in goal, but still… Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon, albeit not quite winning the Wimbledon? Come on.

Which brings me to the Olympics. For two years we diplomats in London planned for, welcomed, feared and dreaded this mother of all extravaganzas coming here. In the end it was simply breath-taking. Even the traffic was smooth for a change. And the athletes were so wonderful, especially those trying to play volleyball knee-deep in sand in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade, which you will all recognize is something physically impossible to do. What helped the players get away with it was the amazing circus-like atmosphere with cheer leaders, pop-music tunes and Mexican waves of thousands of spectators. Never in the history of human competition have so few owed so much to so many.

For me, personally and seriously, all these glories faded before the real heroics of the Paralympic games, something I found truly human, touching and exhilarating at the same time. I have nothing but admiration for every single one of the paralympic athletes and their efforts to transcend their limits, without much hype and I am sure without blood transfusions. And I have nothing but admiration for the reception, the enthusiastic support and the empathy this country gave the Paralympics. It made the rest of us feel somewhat inferior, and for a good reason. Well done.
There were other amazing feats throughout the year, like the 75 minute speech without notes by Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference and the equally spirited response of Prime Minister Cameron at the Conservative Party conference, not to mention Boris Johnson’s barrage of Anglo-Greek aliterations starting with an ´E´...

In my view though, the prize of the year must go to our host, Her Majesty the Queen, for so graciously putting up with the months-long celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee, for enduring the River Pageant on board of the royal yacht in a freezing rain and for even suffering through a concert of pop music in front of the Buckingham Palace. This is what I would call a true royal grit. My deepest respects, Your Majesty.
Of course the year was not all roses. Engelbert Humperdinck finished 25th out of 26 in the Eurosong contest, but given that his birth date is 1854 (if you don´t believe me check the Internet) the Azerbaijanis should have probably organized a senior category.

Back home we had a quieter year, keeping our heads above the water and trying to cope with the idea that we Europeans may not only no longer be the first world, but may no longer be the second world either, which had been our label during the communist era. To overcome this we are busy trying to balance the budget, promote growth, assist in the efforts to stabilize the euro and help further liberalization of trade and services on a Europe-wide as well as global scale. We even tried prohibition but that did not take.

There were some bilateral achievements as well. We had a most successful visit of Prime Minister Nečas in London in March during which we also remembered our late president Vaclav Havel in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. We had a presidential visit on the occasion of the Olympics and expect president Klaus to come again before the end of the year. We had a number of ministerial and parliamentary visits. Our Czech House was voted the Best Olympic House in London 2012 by the Associated Press, no doubt thanks to the exceptional qualities of our designers, our beer and our hostesses.
So all in all, it was a great year.

Let us just hope that next year Jana and I will also have some time left to go on vacations. Thank you all very much for coming to celebrate with us the National Day of the Czech Republic (Michael Žantovský).

For the photographs from the reception please visit the facebook page of the Czech Embassy.