Sport has always been a part of daily life in the Czech Republic and has a long tradition and much success. The Czechs are not only excellent sportsman but they are innovators as well. For example, František Janda-Suk won the discus throw at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris with the help of a revolutionary technique – a spinning throw, which has been adopted by following generations of discus throwers.
Sports have a very long tradition in the Czech lands, with their beginnings dating to the 14th century under the reign of the Luxemburg family. This is when the popularity of various knight’s tournaments, which we can call the predecessor of sporting tournaments, began to grow.
From the 16th century, sledging and skating were added to the list of popular activities. But skates were apparently invented as far back as the 13th century. Apart from the use of skates with a wooden base and blade, skating was even carried out using ground bones.
At the turn of the 15th and 16th century, the first indoor sports appeared, or as the case may be, sports nurtured in the so-called ballrooms. A ballroom can still be seen today in Prague Castle. Aristocrats played something like tennis and ball sports in these ballrooms, but also devoted themselves to other activities, such as archery. The game of skittles also gradually became popular. In the 17th century, the Royal Czech Professional Fencing Room was created and fencing as a sport was born.
Organized sport did not emerge until the 19th century when on February 16, 1862, the Prague Sokol (Sokol means a falcon) was formed, the leading figures of which were Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fügner. Other Sokol chapters sprang up in other locations around the Czech lands based on the pattern provided by the Prague organization, as well as among compatriots abroad. Regions were gradually created (here, a region meant an autonomous organizational unit), which after unification in 1904 became the Czech Sokol Community. By the way, Sokol is one of the oldest organizations of this type in the world.
The Orel Catholic Physical Education Unit also emerged in 1908 according to the pattern set by the Tyrš and Fügner Sokol.
Sokol was not only a physical education organization, but was also characterized by deeply patriotic and democratic ideas. For this reason, its activities were not only stopped during the First World War (in 1915), but above all during the period of Nazi occupation, when Orel also had to halt its activities, and then later after 1948, when it was swallowed up by “unified physical education.” 1948 was the year of the 14th and, for a long time, the last Sokol rally. This grand-scale sporting exhibition was then replaced by the so-called Spartakiáda events (Spartakiáda were in fact held before – for the first time in 1921 – but it was only after 1948 that they became the only opportunity for mass sporting events, closely connected with communist ideology).
Attempts to renew the Sokol organization were interrupted by the intervention of the Warsaw Pact forces in 1968, so the idea for the renewal of Sokol was not fulfilled until 1990.
Nowadays, Sokol supports sporting activities with regard to 57 sports, which are organized in the Czech Sokol Community. The largest segment in the Czech Sokol Community is the all-round department of Sokol, in which a program of physical activities and recreational sports is created for all citizens, including the disabled. The Sokol organization has also significantly influenced the broadening of a humanitarian event, the Terry Fox Run in the Czech Republic, which, together with Canada, is No. 1 in the world as far as the number of participants in the run is concerned.
These days, the Czech Sokol Community (ČOS) has almost 1,100 units and 190,000 members. The last Sokol rally took place on July 1 to 6, 2006.
The very first great Czech Olympic success was achieved at the Olympics in Paris in 1900 in the discus by František Janda-Suk, when his performance of 35.25 meters gained him second place behind the Hungarian Rudolf Bauer. He thus gained the first Olympic medal for the nation’s colors. More than his performance, Janda-Suk mainly gained attention by his new style – the spinning throw, which soon caught on and found its home in the discus circle.
Czechoslovak sportsmen and women from the Czechoslovak Republic gathered together in 1918 at the Games in Antwerp in 1920. The first part was made up of hockey players, who had already played their premier Olympic ice hockey tournament in April. They won third place in the tournament, thus becoming the first medal winners for the independent Czechoslovakia.
The first gold medal to be won for Czechoslovakia came in Paris four years later in the rope climbing event, with the success achieved by Bedřich Šupčík. His time of 7.2 seconds on an 8-meter rope without the use of legs was regarded as a world record at that time. Thanks to Šupčík, the Czechoslovak national anthem was heard for the first time at the Olympics and the red, white and blue flag was raised on the highest pole.
Canoeing was ranked among the Olympic disciplines for the first time at the Games in Berlin 1936. This step was very rewarding from the point of view of medal positions and prestige for Czechoslovak sports, not only at the Games in Berlin but also in later years. Of the 13 water sports representatives who left for Berlin, 11 came within the top six in their events. In the canoe pairs race over 1000 meters, Jan Brzák-Felix together with Václav Syrovátko won the gold medal, and this was followed by another gold win for Czechoslovakia achieved by Zdeněk Škrdlant with Václav Mottel on the 10-kilometer course. The collection of medals was expanded with a silver in the single canoe event over the 1-kilometer course by Bohuslav Karlík. The kayakers added one fourth, two fifths and one sixth place. The water sports representatives became the most successful part of the Czechoslovak team, bringing home three gold and five silver medals from Berlin.
The first post-war Olympic Games were held in London in 1948. Czechoslovak representatives won six gold, two silver and three bronze medals. One of the most famous Czechoslovak athletes of all time, the long-distance runner, Emil Zátopek, won gold for the first time here.
He went on to win three gold medals at the next Olympics in Helsinki in some of the most difficult athletic disciplines – the 5,000-meter, 10,000-meter and the marathon. His wife, Dana Zátopková, won gold in the javelin. Czechoslovak representatives won seven gold, three silver and three bronze medals in Helsinki.
The Tokyo Games in 1964, however, outdid the sporting level attained at all the previous games. The Czechoslovak representatives achieved their greatest success to date. As in Helsinki, the overall ranking was 10th, but this time it was achieved against much greater competition and a greater number of medals were gained: five gold, six silver and three bronze.
The Czechs and the Slovaks competed together under a common flag for the last time at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. The Czechoslovak Federal Republic won seven medals in Spain: four gold, two silver and one bronze.
The Czech Olympic Committee (ČOV) was founded May 18, 1899, on the instigation of Dr. Jiří Guth-Jarkovský, a member of the International Olympic Committee, and the well-known Czech sports functionary Josef Rössler-Ořovský.
It was supposed to fulfill the function of being a committee for the provision of Czech participation in the second Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris. On March 7, 1900, it was transformed into a permanent body in the world of Czech sports and is thus one of the oldest permanent national Olympic committees (most NOCs were created and operated for only a short period before the Olympic Games were held). On June 18, 1919, it was transformed into the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee. During the time of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, it was once again known as the Czech Olympic Committee. In June 1939, its independence was confirmed by a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in London.
After the death of Dr. Jiří St. Guth-Jarkovský in January 1943, the German Protectorate Authorities prepared for an intervention against the ČOV. Upon an order for the functionaries of the ČOV to avoid this situation (and in order to prevent the confiscation of their assets), they “voluntarily” disbanded at the general assembly April 29, 1943, and their assets were transferred to the Czech Allsports Committee.
In May 1945, the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee renewed its activities and reassumed the possession of its stored assets. It worked as an association until December 1951, when it was incorporated as a department in the so-called Comprehensive Physical Education Organization, continuing to exist abroad only pro forma. After the creation of the State Committee for Physical Education and Sport (according to the law of December 1952) it became part of this committee.
In March 1957, a new physical education organization was created - the Czechoslovak Union of Physical Education. The Czechoslovak Olympic Committee (ČSOV) continued to be only a department of this body but nevertheless its activities were revived. The committee actually began to operate and commenced preparations for Prague to submit a candidature to be the location for holding 20th Olympic Games. The subsequent normalization once again restricted its activities and it was forced to retire from the candidature, the 20th Olympic Games being held in 1980 in Moscow.
The ČSOV experienced another revival of its activities in the middle of the '70s, when the Czechoslovak Olympians Club began to operate in terms of the ČSOV from 1975 and from 1977 in terms of the Czechoslovak Fair Play Club. In 1987, the Czechoslovak Olympic Academy was founded with the personal participation of the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
During the course of the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee became independent and in April 1990 a new charter was accepted and a new committee was elected with the seven-time Olympic winner in the field of sporting gymnastics, Věra Čáslavská, at its head.
In connection with preparations for the division of Czechoslovakia into two separate states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, the Czech members of the ČSOV met December 21, 1992, and renewed the activity of the Czech Olympic Committee (with the Slovak Olympic Committee already having been created on December 19, 1992).
The 115th meeting of the International Olympic Committee was held in Prague in July 2003, and it was here that Vancouver was chosen to be the host for the Winter Olympic Games of 2010.
For detailed history on the SOKOL organizations, see:
For more detailed information about popular sports in the Czech Republic see:
The most popular sports in the Czech Republic are football (soccer), ice hockey, volley-ball, tennis and kickball (an original Czech sport similar to volley-ball in which the players kick the ball over a low net.)
Football is the most popular sport in the Czech Republic. The Czech Football Association has run the country's top league, the 1st league, since l925. The most popular club, AC Sparta Praha, have been remarkably successful in both domestic and European contests. Czechoslovakia were runners-up in the 1934 and 1962 World Cups, European champions in 1976 and the Czech Republic narrowly lost to Germany in the finals of 1996's European championships held in England.
For years Czechoslovakia's national ice hockey teams have ranked among the top five or six national teams in the world. The national ice hockey team have won the World Hockey Championships seven times (the last time in 1996 in Vienna). They came 2nd in the Canada Cup in 1976. Today, Czech ice hockey suffers from a mass exodus of its best players to foreign leagues, especially to the NHL.
Czech tennis players have been remarkably successful in international competitions. One of them, Martina Navrtilova, is arguably the best female tennis
player of all time. Many other male and female tennis players have appeared in the top 1OO rankings of international tennis.
Track and Field
Czech athletes have made a great impression on track and field competitions.
2016: Queen of Czech Sport is Zuzana Hejnová
Jaroslav Pomp is a communication and public relations consultant, educated at Charles University in Prague from which he received a Degree in Journalism. During his lifelong career, he has worked as a sports journalist, as Corporate Spokesperson of the world famous brewery group, Pilsner Urquell, and as PR Director of the leading Central European bakery group United Bakeries. From 1990 – 2010, he was a political commentator at Americké listy, published in New York. In 2003, 2004 and 2006, he served as head of the media campaign for a candidate to the European Parliament, the Czech Senate and to the Czech Parliament. In the period of 2002 – 2003, he served as Spokesperson of the Czech Triathlon Federation. He is the author of the book Triathlon Adventure. Here is his latest summary of current Czech sports, dated March, 2016.
Zuzana Hejnová, World Champion in the 400 m hurdles at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and winner of the track and field Diamond League series, became the 2015 Best Czech Athlete of the Year. She is now focusing on Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Czechs athletes were very successful in 2015. The "jumper of the year" event for the Czechs was the biathlon. "Biathlon Mania" in the Czech Republic has grown out of the four medals from the World Championship earned by Czech athletes. The mixed relay team took home a gold, and Gabriela Soukalová and Ondřej Moravec each took home individual silver medals. Altogether Czech representatives made 21 podium appearances in the Biathlon World Cup and beautiful Miss Soukalová is now one of the most admired women in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic organized the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2015, but the Czech team, even with NHL stars Jaromír Jágr, Jakub Voráček and others, lost the semifinal match against Canada and finished in fourth place.The Czech national soccer team was very successful at the qualifiers for the European Championships coming in 2016. Czechs won their group followed by Netherlands, Turkey and Iceland. In 2015, the Czech National Champion Cup was won by Viktoria Pilsen.Czech cyclists also continued to perform with good results. Zdeněk Štybar became the second Czech to ever win a stage in the Tour de France, and Ján Svorada, and Leopold König reached 6th place in the overall classification in the Giro d'Italia. And what about skiing? Lukáš Bauer, at the end of his long and successful career, won the silver medal in 50 km classic cross country skiing at the World Championship in Falun, Sweden, and Šárka Strachová was awarded with the bronze medal in slalom at the World Championship in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Of course, we cannot forget speed skater Martina Sáblíková. The three-time Olympic Champion has won the World Championship 5000 m race for the seventh time in a row, with the same result in the 3000 m. But Miss Sáblíková is not only a top speed skater; she will represent the Czech Republic in bicycling at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The queens of world tennis are again Czech women - for the fourth time they won the Federation Cup, when they defeated Russia in the final, led by Maria Sharapovova. For the first time in tennis history, three Czech female players (Petra Kvitová, Lucie Šafářová and Karolína Plíšková) were at one time ranked in the world´s top ten.
Finally, we have to mention water sports. Ondřej Synek has earned the title of World Champion at rowing for the fourth time. World champion titles on the wild water kayak are also held by Jiří Prskavec and Kateřina Kudějová, and by canoeist Martin Fuksa.