Czechs go crazy as pop singer Gott turns 80

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Hundreds of people from home and abroad queued in steady rain in central Prague Sunday to buy a “Zero Euro” souvenir banknote depicting Czech pop singer Karel Gott in honor of his 80th birthday.

The first fans and collectors arrived on Thursday to buy the zero-denomination banknote for the equivalent of two euros (dollars) from special ATMs in the shop of a local record company.

“We arrived at 6:00 am on Saturday. We slept in a sleeping bag on the pavement,” said Lukas Gandzala, who came from the northern Slovak city of Poprad, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Prague.

“We collect the banknotes, the Zero Euro is a big phenomenon in our country, and so is Karel Gott,” he told AFP, folding his umbrella to finally get inside the shop after his rain-drenched 26-hour wait.

Unlike Slovakia, with which it formed a single state until 1993, the Czech Republic has not yet introduced the euro and its government has no plans to replace its koruna currency in the near future.

Created by Frenchman Richard Faille in 2015 and authorized by the European Central Bank, the Zero Euro notes used solely as souvenirs have so far depicted well-known sites and people like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn.

Dubbed “Divine Karel,” Gott has been voted the most popular singer 42 times in the annual Golden Nightingale poll of Czech music fans.

Very popular also in neighboring Germany, Gott has released almost 300 LPs and CDs, selling dozens of millions of them.

Relishing the singer’s hits as well as the title song for the ‘Maya the Bee’ children’s TV series, German fans have dubbed Gott “the Golden Voice from Prague”.

Born on July 14, 1939, Gott rose to stardom in the 1960s when he sang in Germany and the US and represented Austria in the Eurovision song contest.

At the weekend, Czech Television filled its prime time with Gott-related shows, while the top-selling broadsheet DNES published recipes for Gott’s favorite meals on its website.

At the front of the winding, bulky queue, Jana Vankova from Ricany near Prague, who spent the night in a folding chair, said she would buy the banknote as a birthday tribute to Gott.
“We’re all fans, not banknote dealers. We really love Gott,” she told AFP.

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