Czech Republic President Milos Zeman showed up at a special state ceremony on Thursday looking a little green in the gills, sagging and swaying through the event at Prague Castle. Local media say that many Czechs believe he was drunk, a conclusion that does not seem unreasonable based on the footage. His office disputes this, saying that Zeman was sick. Two English translations of the statement attribute the president's behavior to "virosis," a generic term for any disease caused by a virus.
The ceremony was supposed to be a straightforward one: Zeman and other top Czech officials would respectfully inspect the country's crown jewels. But video of the visit, aired on national Czech TV, showed the president looking "absent-minded and uncertain," the English-language Prague Daily Monitor charitably reports. That story also cites the Lidové Noviny, a major Czech newspaper, as reporting that Zeman stumbled over a cable and, later, on some stairs, barely catching himself from falling by grabbing a nearby chair.
At one point in the video, a nearby guard, clearly alarmed, reaches out to grab Zeman as he stumbles away from the crown jewels.
A Czech photographer who was at the ceremony later uploaded photos of the event to a freelance photography Web site under the heading "People believe the Czech President was drunk at the official ceremony." He wrote in his description of the photos that, despite the official explanation of virosis, "many people still believe that the president was drunk." (Do click through to his photos, which are really something.)
I don't know Zeman's reputation in the Czech Republic well enough to say whether people might find this video surprising, but Prague Daily Monitor says that his "warm relationship with alcohol" has never been a secret. The Lidové Noviny article also reportedly quotes a former prime minister as saying that Zeman "used to drink a lot."
Zeman took office just two months ago, in March, after winning a January election with 55 percent of the vote. Although the job is mostly symbolic, the Economist says the president "can influence public opinion and also appoints members to the board of the central bank as well as the Constitutional Court." That newspaper described Zeman's first press conference after winning the election as "raucous."
Here are a few more photos from the event: