Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, made the nightly news in September 2000 when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund met at Prague Congress Centre. Lost in the reporting on the antics of anti-globalization protesters was the fact that the WB/IMF meeting was the first at the newly renovated venue.

Originally opened in 1981 as the Palace of Culture, the building was closed in 1998 for expansion and modernization. Reopened in July 2000 with a series of special local events prior to the arrival of a planet's worth of central bankers, the Palace was re-christened the Prague Congress Centre.

The reconstructed facility has 19 meeting rooms, the largest of which is an auditorium with seating for 2,813. The other 18 rooms can accommodate 78 to 420 people. Separate from these are five club rooms and 15 lounges, for groups as small as 15 people and as large as 140. In addition, there are 241,000 square feet of exhibition space. A 240-room Holiday Inn is directly accessible from the facility.

According to Martin Schwarz, marketing manager for the Prague Congress Centre, the four-floor structure is the largest of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. It is certainly one of the most convenient — just two stops on the metro from the center of the city — and one of the most pleasantly situated, with a view of the city, the Vlatava River, and Prague Castle. Schwarz hopes the success of the WB/IMF meeting will help to raise the city's profile in the international convention market. “Congress travel in the Czech Republic is starting to develop dynamically,” says Petr Diab, vice chairman of the Congress Centre Corp. “Our goal is to make Prague a prospering conference metropolis for the new millennium.” If Eastern European countries continue at their current pace to better integrate themselves into the European economy, his wish may come true.

To learn more, visit the Congress Centre Web site at Click on the Union Jack in the upper right corner of the screen for English.