Prague, Oct 11 (CTK) – The public mourning ceremony in honour of the late Czech pop music star Karel Gott started in the Zofin Palace on an island in the Prague centre at 08:00 today.
Hundreds of Gott’s fans have been waiting on the embankment since last night to pay their last respects to their icon.
The Zofin Palace is to close at 22:00. However, the opening hours may be prolonged until midnight in the case of a high interest.
Besides, people can say their last good-bye to Gott in Prague’s Kinsky Garden where another commemorative palace will be opened, after an agreement with Gott’s family, from 10:00 to the midnight on Sunday.
Gott, who was also popular abroad, mainly in Germany, died at home in his villa in Prague’s Bertramka, on October 1, at the age of 80. He suffered from acute leukemia. The government declared Saturday a national day of mourning when the flags on the state offices and institutions would fly at half mast.
Gott’s coffin is placed on a stage in the Zofin Palace, decorated with a heart made of red roses, a treble clef of roses and the Czech flag. Gott’s medal For Merit for his contribution to Czech culture that then president Vaclav Klaus awarded him in 2009 is also displayed on the stage.
The coffin is surrounded with big white lit candles and soldiers are patrolling along the sides of the stage. Based on the government’s decision, the ceremony is held with state honours.
Gott’s songs, including those in German, are being played in the hall, while the organisers have selected slow ones.
Some of the fans spent the night on portable chairs outside the premises. The first one arrived on Thursday afternoon and others were coming in the night, the police said.
People are entering the grand hall in Zofin through a special corridor. They lay flowers in front of the stage, shortly stop there looking at the singer’s black-and-white photograph hanging above, some are taking pictures. They usually shoot the last glimpse at the coffin again before leaving the hall slowly.
Afterwards, they are queuing to write their messages in one of the four thick books of condolences.
All people addressed by CTK said they were satisfied with the organisation of the mourning ceremony.
One of Gott’s admirers, a woman who arrived from Usti nad Labem, north Bohemia, told CTK that the journey and long waiting were worth it.
The organisers expect tens of thousands of Gott’s fans from the Czech Republic and abroad to attend the ceremony. The highest estimates mentioned up to 300,000 people.
However, the administration of the island where the Zofin Palace is situated, say that maximally 50,000 guests can enter it until 22.00.
The event is accompanied by security measures and traffic restrictions. The Masaryk embankment, from Jirasek Bridge to the National Theatre, is closed to cars today. The Prague emergency service has also reinforced its crews.
Other Czech towns and villages in the Czech Republic are preparing farewell events in memory of Gott as well.
On Saturday, a mourning ceremony will take place in St Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle, the seat of Czech kings and presidents, at 11:00. The heritage site will be partially closed to the public until 14:00 over the event that will be for invited guests only.
A religious service will be accompanied by speeches and performances of selected singers. The public can watch it on large-scale screens on the Third Courtyard or on Hradcany square outside the Castle.
Gott was at the top of Czech pop music for some 60 years. He released almost 300 LPs and sold tens of millions of records.
He is the winner of 42 Golden or Czech Nightingale awards for the best pop singer. He has many fans not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also in the neighbouring Germany, Austria and Poland as well as in Russia and elsewhere abroad.