Footnotes on a psychic octopus

PAUL the Octopus’ Wikipedia profile, you might be interested to know, has more footnotes than that of Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final.

When a significant figure in public life dies, Wikipedia places a disclaimer at the top of their profile to indicate that it may change over the coming days. I’m pleased to report they have done this with Paul following his death overnight at the grand old age of two-and-three-quarters (the octopus equivalent of 90-odd).

“This article is about an animal who has recently died,” Wikipedia warns. “Some information, such as that pertaining to the animal’s death and surrounding events, may change as more facts become known.”

Standard Wikipedia stuff, although it might be enough to prick up Columbo’s ears, particularly in the light of betting expert David Mole’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the bookmakers would have been only too happy to assist Paul’s demise.

Most people will remember Paul for his remarkable ability to predict the accurately the results of eight World Cup matches despite using a system which made no allowance for draws.

But it’s easy to forget that Paul, in addition to incurring the wrath of every country he tipped to lose, also managed to upset the Kazakhstan Association of Bookmakers and the president of Iran.

The Kazakhstan rift is easy to explain – the nation’s bookies made a profit of only £670,000 during the World Cup (more than I made, but still a lot less than the £1.3million they had predicted) and blamed it on all those punters backing Paul’s forecasts and coming out quids in. (I refuse to do the obvious squid-related pun there. I absolutely refuse. And you can’t make me.)

Getting on the wrong side of Iran’s terrifying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though, was perhaps Paul’s most bizarre achievement.

During the summer, Ahmadinejad took some time out from incurring the wrath of Human Rights Watch, denying that his country are building a nuclear bomb and making outrageous statements about the Holocaust to claim that Paul spread “Western propaganda and superstition”.

“Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values,” he said.

Next time I bump into David Cameron, Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel or whoever the prime minister of Canada is these days (I’ve got Canadian family, so I’m allowed that gag), I’ll ask if they really believed in Paul’s psychic powers. I suspect even Merkel might say no.

What even Ahmadinejad must have realised, though, in making a speech so widely reported, was that Paul was the big star of the summer’s most-watched global event. South Africa 2010 was the World Cup of the octopus. And Paul deserves every one of his 62 Wikipedia footnotes.


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