The 14th SOKOL Gathering

The 14th SOKOL Gathering

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SOKOL is the Czech word for 'falcon' but it's also an organization devoted to physical fitness.  Every town in the Czech Republic has a SOKOL lodge (they're as ubiquitous as the Rotary Club is here in the States) but there are also SOKOL groups wherever in the world you find established Czech or Slovak populations.

Every 6 years SOKOL holds a world gathering in Prague and we were lucky enough to be there at the right time and have a guide who knew about it.  Teams from all over the world meet, take a few days to work the bugs out of routines they have practiced independently for weeks or months, and then put on a performance the likes of which few of us have ever seen.

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Imagine 2,000 Radio City Music Hall Rockettes aged 8 to 10, many of whom have never met until two days ago.  They have worked on identical routines independently, 12 from Stockholm, 35 from San Francisco, 122 from London, 310 from Chicago... and put it all together in a few days.  Groups cover all ages and conditions.  Above, 2,500 men and women (55+) flawlessly execute their program to produce pattern after pattern such as this.

Because there are so many groups, they all can't perform on the same night; the program would go on forever.  So, each night 12 to 16 selected groups perform, each group having upwards of 1,000 performers; some as large as 2,500.  I can hear the gears spinning in some of your heads... yes, that means there are 60,000+ SOKOL members gathered here in Prague.  There are usually more performers on the field than there are observers in the stands.

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