The Czech government are keeping a close eye on
the purse strings [GALLO/GETTY]
The Czech government gave only a lukewarm backing to Prague's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, granting legal cover for the candidacy but stressing it was not committed to provide financial guarantees.

Prague's drive to host either the 2016 or 2020 Games has sparked intensive debate in the central European country of 10 million people between those looking to raise the Czech Republic's profile and those saying it was a waste of money.

"The government approved a necessary condition for Prague to be placed on the list of candidates," Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said.

"I have a feeling that it is exactly what has to be done at the moment, which is not to block the whole process. But I think it also implicates certain reservations that the government has towards the whole project," he added.

Under the legal commitment, the government recognised the Olympic Charter and pledged to enable free movement of the Games' participants.

But Topolanek stated the cabinet was not pledging to provide any financial guarantees in the future for the project, advocated by Pavel Bem, Prague mayor and Topolanek's peer in the right-wing Civic Democratic Party.

Two junior coalition parties have opposed the candidacy on the grounds the Games would hurt the environment, divert resources from the countryside to the capital and threaten the aim of cutting the budget gap.

The application to host the 2016 Games has to be filed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by January 14.

In June, the committee will shortlist five cities. Madrid, edged out by London for the 2012 Olympics, Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Doha in Qatar and Azerbaijan's Baku have declared their intention to bid.

Source: Agencies