Saturday, July 17, 2010

Octopus Paul gets big stamp of approval

"Soccer oracle" Octopus Paul swims above a FIFA World Cup "trophy" in his aquarium in Oberhausen, western Germany, on July 12. Roland Weihrauch / AFP

Paul, the German octopus who gained global fame after accurate predictions of eight World Cup matches, has become the symbol of luck and generated an "octopus fever" in Shanghai.

Crowds have been lining up outside the DEVNET Pavilion located at Zone B in the Expo Garden of the Expo 2010 Shanghai, after the pavilion designed an octopus stamp on the final day of the World Cup to attract tourists hoping for good luck.

"It's a great opportunity to combine Expo 2010 Shanghai and World Cup 2010 together and we hope it will bring fun and luck to the tourists," said Mi Rongrong, press officer of the DEVNET Pavilion. Organizers made their octopus stamp on the midnight before the final World Cup match, Mi said.

Tourists have had to line up for about one hour to get an octopus stamp, which has made the pavilion one of the most popular pavilions in the Expo Garden.

"I came from Beijing to Shanghai especially for Expo 2010. I learnt from the news that there was an octopus stamp available in the pavilion. The idea of an octopus stamp is quite interesting, making it a unique, lucky souvenir," Gu Zheng, a 15-year-old boy who is a big fan of Brazilian soccer player Kaka, said as he lined up for the stamp.

"We didn't expect such a rapid increase in the number of tourists after we launched the octopus seal. We will offer the octopus stamp for two weeks before further plans are made," Mi said. The octopus stamp is "purely for entertainment", Mi said.

The average lifespan of an octopus is about three years, so 2-year-old Paul is already considered to be in his old age. The octopus will not be able to repeat his accurate predictions of the recent World Cup results for the 2012 European Championship due to his age, animal researchers have said.

Apart from the octopus stamp, octopus-related products have also ranked as some of the hottest items on the market. Pajamas, bags, toys, necklaces, USB plug-ins and accessories with octopus characters or signs have become extremely popular.

Paul's fame also inspired the aquarium in Shanghai Changfeng Park with the idea of raising an octopus for fun. The aquarium plans to have a Chinese octopus in the near future to make predictions like Paul did.

"We're having discussions on having our own octopus in the aquarium by the end of September, before the Asian Games starts," said Zhou Yu, the aquarium's marketing director.

"The octopus will be able to make predictions on those games during the Asiad, for entertainment."

It should not be very difficult to create suitable water conditions for an octopus in the aquarium, Zhou said.

Paul has also made a broader mark on the tourism sector, with Chinese travel agencies planning to add the Sea Life Aquarium in the western city of Oberhausen, where Paul lives, to tour routes to Germany.

"We're trying to reach an agreement with related departments in Germany to add the aquarium as a stop on the Germany route, which will attract Chinese tourists and boost the local market," said Zhou Yingfeng, manager of a Shanghai local travel agency.

Octopus Paul has also brought good luck to the tourism industry, the manager said.

Children show the octopus stamps they received at the Expo Garden in Shanghai on Friday. Paul, the German octopus which gained global fame after eight accurate predictions in the World Cup, has become a symbol of luck and generated an "octopus fever" in Shanghai. Pan Suofei / China News Service

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