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Czechs go crazy as pop singer Karel Gott turns 80

People queued to get their hands on ‘Zero Euro’, approved by European Central Bank as souvenir banknote, depicting the pop icon

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 honour of his 80th birthday.

The first fans and collectors arrived on Thursday to buy the zero-denomination banknote for the equivalent of €2 from special ATMs in the shop of a local record company.

“We arrived at 6:00 a.m. 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 km from Prague.

“We collect the banknotes, the Zero Euro is a big phenomenon in our country, and so is Karel Gott,” he said, 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 authorised by the European Central Bank, the Zero Euro notes used solely as souvenirs have so far depicted well-known sites, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Big Ben, and people like 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.

Golden voice

Very popular also in neighbouring 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 U.S. 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 favourite 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 said.

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