The English one-word name Czechia was initially supported by the president, and top government officials, in April last year. Since then experts and athletes have been debating whether or not to use it on their kit.
The title was decided for the first time in 1993, in the database of official names of states, of the UN. However, with the consent of the Czech government to use this new name this summer, the issue of whether to use ‘Czech Republic’ or ‘Czechia,’ on the Czech national team jerseys has arisen.
The Czech political elite have been fighting since April to promote the new English name, ‘Czechia.’ But from the beginning, it has been clear that the word remains mostly on paper. At the 2016 Rio Olympics this August, athletes jerseys displayed the original name, ‘Czech Republic.’ While most athletes prefer the longer title, it is still not entirely clear what the inscription will be on the clothing and uniforms of Czech athletes when they arrive at the next Olympics, or hockey World Cup.
Marek Brodsky, a spokesman for the Czech Olympic Committee, said: “Now the sports federations have an ongoing broad debate which of which the outcome is not clear. As Czechia and the long name have their positives and negatives, and everyone stands to make a case. It is trying to be solved globally. We are waiting for someone; Zavel, perhaps, the Ministry of Education and Sports to make a decision.”
The topic is increasingly relevant because the Hockey World Championships are approaching, organised jointly by Germany and France, and soon the production of equipment, for the Winter Olympics in South Korea, will start. The debate was sparked in mid-November when sports associations were sent an email that a number of officials deemed a guide from the Ministry of Education and Sports.
According to the alleged official document, uniforms from the beginning of next year, should begin using Czechia. The idea of an immediate alteration jerseys and tracksuits resistance caused a storm of controversy. It was a logical reaction. According to Zdenek Koukal, a representative of the group who have been pushing for the name change for nearly twenty years, this is a misunderstanding. “It’s true that we sent to the ministry our suggestion, our idea, of how it should proceed. But the ministry responded in style, neither fish nor fowl. So some of our more radical members decided to tell the athletes, and send our proposal. But it was clearly written, who the email was from and that it was only a proposal,” said Kukal.
In the email it does state that the citizens’ initiative sent the proposal to “manual”, which went to the just the sport section of the Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education alone, however, does not make decisions about what signs are printed on T-shirts, Zdenek Birch, Director of the Ministry of Sports, said: “Unilateral instruction does not exist. It’s the will of the individual unions and representations, whether they will continue to use the longer version or shorter.
The email was really just their idea of what we should do. We consider it a hoax.” Kristina Larischová, director of Public Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, said: “We have issued a document called ‘What to call Czech abroad’, where our preferences and recommendations for the use on the shirts of Czechia are made clear. But we cannot or shouldn’t, dictate to athletes. Rather, we expect that over time we will all understand it more and come to a more efficient and flexible option.”
Miroslav Jansta, Chairman of the Czech Union of sport and the Czech basketball Federation chief, said: “If we were to start using ‘Czechia,’ which I actually like, we would need a clear manual, but also money, because the change will cost money. The government should decide and give the initiative the means. If it does not, then nothing will change and we will stick with the ‘Czech Republic.’”