Fortuitously, Jamaican fast man Usain Bolt’s hotel and the arena where he will race in the 100 metres in Ostrava, Czech Republic, look to the casual eye to be almost exactly 100 metres apart. If Bolt is running late, he should be able to sprint from one place to the other in his usual 9-point-something seconds – providing there isn’t a car or tram coming on the one road in between.
Bolt’s hotel is the Clarion Congress Hotel Ostrava and the stadium is the Ostrava Arena. He is here to run in the Golden Spike, an annual athletics event being held for the 55th time in May in the Czech Republic’s third-largest city. The hotel is again the main accommodation partner for the competitors, and all 169 rooms are completely booked out.
The Jamaican is staying at the Clarion for the fourth time, occupying a three-room executive suite with a bedroom with king-size bed and a living and meeting area. Despite being a world star thanks to his six gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the London Olympics in 2012, Bolt is known at the hotel as a modest and kind guest, and his only special request is a PlayStation game console. The Golden Spike is a warm-up for his attempt to win three more golds at the Rio Olympics.
The Clarion Congress Hotel Ostrava is owned by CPI Hotels, the largest and fastest developing such group in the Czech Republic, which recently expanded its Budapest portfolio by buying the Starlight Suiten Hotel in downtown’s Mérleg utca, between the Chain Bridge and the Basilica.
CPI’s 28 properties in its home country and Hungary, Poland, Russia and Slovakia now include three in Budapest, following CPI’s takeover of the Mamaison Hotels & Residences brand in 2014. The entire five-country portfolio adds up to 8800 beds and 11,500 conference seats.
The company is expanding its four-star hotel operations and continuing its drive to increase congress capacities in regional centres such as Ostrava so as to draw big conventions that would otherwise end up in Prague or other major European cities.
When The Budapest Times decided to visit Poland’s popular Krakow in September, we figured that a novel approach to the crowded and probably over-priced tourist hotspot would be to stay in the neighbouring Czech Republic region of Moravia, in particular Olomouc and Ostrava, the latter being 120 kilometres from Krakow, which is a quickish drive for a day visit.
In fact it wasn’t a novel thought, as we learned, for example, that this year the World Youth Day in Krakow had resulted in the Clarion Congress Hotel Ostrava being sold out.
Clarion Congress Hotel Olomouc is a tall, modern building opposite the main railway station in the Czech Republic’s sixth-largest city. It opened in 2013 and is a five-minute tram ride or 15-minute walk to the city centre, where the main square is adorned with an imposing Holy Trinity Column and the astronomical clock of City Hall. In 2014, Olomouc was named Europe’s number one secret spot by Lonely Planet.
The four-star hotel has 125 air-conditioned rooms and suites, and conference facilities for up to 1400 people. The latter is a very adaptable space and, as well as corporate parties, can be dressed up to host gala evenings, fashion shows and, just recently, a fighting arena with an octagonal cage where the audience of a thousand roared on the wild fighters.
When we looked in, a company called FinCentrum Reality was partying in full swing. We’re not sure who provided the six pretty dancers in clinging, slit red dresses.
If desired, the partygoers – or indeed anyone who needs a deserved rest – could recover in the hotel’s wellness centre, called Beer Spa BBB, with a massage, Finnish sauna or dip in the whirlpool. The beer spa itself is a wooden tub filled with brewer’s yeast, hops, malt and beer, all of which apparently rejuvenates the body. A within-reach beer pump dispenses the amber fluid, for drinking not soaking. Nearby are the hay beds, which make your body delightfully warm and relaxed.
Following in Usain Bolt’s footsteps, so to speak, a hundred kilometres from Olomouc is Ostrava, nearer the Polish border, and here the Clarion Congress Hotel, being a few kilometres from the city centre and next to the arena, has room to move.
Its conference facilities can handle 1620 delegates, making it the largest congress hotel in northern Moravia and popular for hosting regional, corporate, cultural and social events.
This year one or the other of the two hotels has hosted occasions such as the World Grand Prix for women volleyball players, the very popular Colours of Ostrava, international tennis tournaments such as the Fed Cup, a Day for Mom that focused on helping mothers caring for disabled children, and an International Children’s Day where the youngsters got to see Bolt’s suite.
The Jamaican, perhaps buoyed up by the Czech and international cuisine in the hotel’s Benada Restaurant, a dip in its pool or a massage and sauna in the wellness area, crossed the tram tracks to overcome a slow start at the Golden Spike and win the 100 metres in 9.98 seconds, before going on to take another three golds in Rio.