Czechia or Česko? National teams seek a single name across all sports

Sports officials say it's currently a free-for-all with different teams using different national names on uniforms.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 19.05.2022 11:53:00 (updated on 23.05.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Almost nothing gets a rise out of English speakers in the Czech lands more than the debate over whether to call the country "Czechia" or the "Czech Republic." Czech national teams are faced with a similar debate when it comes to how to refer to the country on their uniforms. Some teams opt for “Česko,” which is "Czechia" in the Czech language.

Czech sports organizations are now in the process of unifying the name used for the country across all teams, giving Czech professional athletics a unified international face across all disciplines.

It would seem to be a simple matter to settle, but the debate has been dragging on since 1993 when the "Czech Republic" was established as the long-form in English and Czechia as a short alternative. But the two-word “Czech Republic” seems to be falling out of favor of late.

All of the participants in a conference on the topic at the end of April at Černín Palace, the seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, voted for a one-word name, either Česko or Czechia. Participants included the National Sports Agency, the Czech Olympic Committee, the Czech Sports Union, and the Czech Sokol Community, who were all in favor of a single-word name.

The matter of which of these two names will be used in the next Olympic Games, which take place in Paris in the summer of 2024, is now in the hands of an executive committee of the Czech Olympic Committee. Once they choose between the two single-word options, a transition period will be set up for all sports to get on board.

“In order to go to the Olympics in 2024 under a new name, we must make that decision now,” Roman Kumpošt, vice chairman of the Czech Olympic Committee.

Kumpošt said implementation from a sports perspective is simple. The International Olympic Committee maintains a database of countries for sports matches, and currently “Czech Republic” is listed. It would only take a month to have them change the name.

The official website of the Olympics uses the long form of the name in all references to the country, such as the medal ranking from the 2002 games in Beijing. Some uniforms worn in those games also bore the name Czech Republic.

Czech javelin throwers Jakub Vadlejch and Vítězslav Veselý. Photo: Facebook /
Czech javelin throwers Jakub Vadlejch and Vítězslav Veselý. Photo: Facebook / Český olympijský tým

The national ice hockey team in the Olympics sidestepped the issue. They used the Czech national symbol with two lions and two eagles on a shield. The name was not spelled out. In other recent completions, the national hockey team has used “Česko.”

Kumpošt said it was is easier for sports organizations to perform with a one-word short name. “We now have a free-for-all in it. The Czech Republic, Česko, or Czechia appear somewhere on uniforms. Let's unite so that we act in the world together,” Kumpošt added.

Marek Tesař from the Sokol movement said that Czech sports would benefit from a consistent and long-term communication strategy that all participants were invested in.

“Now there is no unity. It will also be important to pay attention to a uniform visual style so that we are well recognizable,” Tesař said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Dvořák began the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs meeting with a case for not using the official long form.

“‘Czechoslovakia’ was a positively perceived brand. For almost 30 years now, we have been wasting time discussing what we should be called. We use an impractical name with ‘republic.’ It is enough to mention the territory and not to mention the type of state,” Dvořák said.

The idea doesn’t only pique the interest of those in sports. Linguistic experts also weighed in on the topic at the ministry’s conference.

“Czechia is the most faithful translation of Česko,” Petr Pavlínek, a geography expert from Charles University, said.

He added that “Bohemia” only refers to part to the Czech Republic, and the phrase “Czech land” is inappropriate. According to him, “Czechia” has been used since 1541.

He said categorized “Czech Republic” as a political name since it states what form of government there is, a republic in this case. “Political names are not used elsewhere in sports. Countries that have a short name use it. The use of the name ‘Czech Republic’ contradicts international practice," he said. He sees “Czechia” as the only option.

Czechia was registered with the United Nations as the official short name in 2016. In July of that year, the name was entered alongside "Czech Republic" in the official UN Database of Geographical Names. In 2017 the name officially appeared on Google Maps.

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