Plan to use pandas to forecast World Cup winners cancelled
The authorities scrap idea for animals to 'predict' winners at the World Cup in Brazil
A team of baby pandas in Sichuan province lined up to predict World Cup scores have been given the red card by the authorities hours before kick-off.
State media had earlier reported the animals at a giant panda research centre would be picking winners during the soccer tournament in Brazil over the coming weeks.
Watch: A Baby Panda Will Predict the 2014 World Cup Winner -- Jimmy Fallon Monologue
One of the methods suggested was to mark bowls with the flags of the countries taking part in a match and then see which one the pandas chose to eat from.
But an official at the research centre's press office said the plans had been scrapped.
"The predictions have been halted by the authorities," the spokesman said.
An official at the research base said earlier the idea for predictions was dreamed up by Xinhua and the internet company Sohu, with the research centre only playing a supporting role.
No agreement was ever reached on what the pandas would be doing, the official said.
The pandas plan followed in the wake of Paul the Octopus, an aquatic celebrity at an aquarium in Germany who predicted matches during the World Cup in South Africa four years ago by eating from boxes marked with team's names. Paul's antics generated worldwide publicity.
State media on the mainland had previously reported that the Sichuan pandas would forecast winners at the World Cup in the knockout stages by deciding which trees to climb marked with national flags.
It was also reported that the animals would take part in races wearing the vests of different nations to predict winning teams.
The pandas would also forecast whether stars at the tournament would score, state media said. Sohu had already started to promote the events this week and said the pandas had already made several predictions on group matches.
It had been due to post video footage of the pandas online yesterday.
A photograph of the baby pandas eating from bowls marked with national flags was published by Xinhua earlier this week.
But Yu Li, the Sichuan correspondent for Xinhua, said the State Forestry Bureau had finally scrapped the idea of the predictions.
"I think they're concerned that the pandas will be used as publicity stunt to entertain people," she said.