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Nobel Prizes plagued by rumours of leaks

world Updated: Oct 12, 2009 23:26 IST

The names of the Nobel laureates often elicit surprise when they are revealed, but last-minute predictions that hit the bull's-eye have sparked suspicions of leaks by the institutes that hand out the awards.

Last week, US President Barack Obama clinched the prestigious Peace Prize and German writer Herta Mueller won the Literature Prize, surprising most observers -- except for a handful of journalists and punters who correctly predicted them as the laureates.

When Obama's name was read out at the Nobel Institute in Oslo on Friday, a collective gasp went through the room.

And yet, on the eve of the announcement, Norwegian commercial television TV2 had suggested he was the most likely winner.

"I wasn't 100 per cent sure, but for me, Obama was the most logical choice. I'm surprised that others were surprised," Gerhard Helskog, the TV2 journalist behind the news clip, told AFP.

He insisted Obama's name was not leaked to him. He explained he had simply tried to think like the Nobel committee and worked "a little with sources," providing no other details.

His good thinking was not immediately rewarded though. "After my news clip aired, a lot of people wrote to me on Twitter to tell me I was an idiot," he said. Enlightened punters also bet on Obama, who saw his odds drop from 33-to-1 to 18-to-1 on -- until the site suspended betting on the US leader's name just hours before Friday's announcement because of the site's "sizable liability."