Jiří Paroubek looked so sulky at ten o’clock on Sunday morning as if he was to deal with George W. Bush instead of with Mirek Topolánek about the new government .
Only the candidate for the post of KDU-ČSL chairwoman, Michaela Šojdrová, sat down next to him on one of the prominent seats of the VIP section next to the stage, where American President Barack Obama was to appear any minute.
Paroubek’s gloominess may have been caused by the fact that the majority of important guests, including himself, got to the stage only after queuing for more than a half an hour in Nerudova street under Hradčanské náměstí, although the invitation promised a significantly smoother course.
People equipped with a special VIP ticket from the US Embassy should have had it easier at the Castle on Sunday. There was supposed to be few of them (and that is why it was expected they would not be squeezing in a queue in front of security checks), all of them were to be equal (no one was to sit) and they should have been closer to Obama – all they needed to do was to climb up Nerudova street.
As is usually the case, only one of the assumptions got fulfilled – the last one.
At first, the tough ladies and gentlemen from the secret service closed the VIP entrance at 8:20am, so the diplomats in suits started forming nice lines of four. As the gate was again opened only at 9:10am, a nice VIP queue had formed: Among the “ordinary diplomats and deputies” who stood in the queue were also Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies Miroslava Němcová, and until recently a hot candidate for the “summer Prime Minister” Marek Mora, and for a while, only a very short while, also Jiří Paroubek.
One general of high standing – apparently in very good shape – came to the place through the police barriers in a navy blue Superb with a beacon. Nobody was wondering: Why should soldiers be walking up the hill like some poor ambassadors?
The democratic equality in the queue was shattered with the opening of the gate. The first early bird among politicians was Minister Cyril Svoboda, who was sitting alone for a long time in one of the five rows of seats designed for politicians already before eight o’clock.
The incumbent Education Minister Ondřej Liška joined the standing crowd, as well as (the future minister? prime minister?) Jan Kohout, the incumbent Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister. Soon, businessmen like the headhunter Jan Bubeník and TV Nova director Petr Dvořák could be seen there too.
The corner at the Tomáš G. Masaryk statue was quickly filled only shortly before the arrival of the main star. The role of openers was taken by the Czech president and prime minister, who shook hands with people in the first row.
It was interesting to observe the faces of the sitting people during the speech – they could not see the giant screen with Czech subtitles on it from the mini-stand. Most of them laughed and clapped hands at the right time, some of them had sour faces the whole time. And when the American president was saying that “NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is fundamental to the safety of people on both sides of the Atlantic”, the majority of the heads turned in Paroubek’s direction.