Nobel Winner Is Never A Solid Bet

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Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Serious gamblers will bet on almost anything, and these days, thanks to the Internet, they have a wealth of choices that have nothing to do with sports. Some of the most popular wagers center around who the next Pope will be, what the next celebrity divorce will be, and whether there will ever be a female U.S. president. But each year odds players try to read the minds of a cryptically secretive, notoriously unpredictable group of people in Sweden who choose the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Each year speculation runs high as to who will be the recipient, and every year, the Nobel Prize Committee remains solid in its resolve to give no clues as to who will win. In fact, the names of the nominees are never released until 50 years after their nominations — it was only recently revealed that former President Dwight Eisenhower was nominated in 1955, according to the International Herald Tribune. But that doesn't stop speculators and bookmakers from making guesses and taking bets on the winners. On the contrary, for many the cloistered nature of the prize only makes it a more exciting, and irresistible, game to play.

“My favorite for this year is former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari,” said Stein Toennesson, director of the Peace Research Institute-Oslo, who gave the statesman a 50% chance of taking the prize for his role brokering a peace between the the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government. “He has been involved in several peace processes in his life, in Libya, the Balkan; he has a special role in Kosovo; but the main reason is the role he played in Indonesia.”

But Toennesson also gives Ahtisaari’s cohort in the process, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a 20% chance of taking the prize because he actually signed the deal. Human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer gets a 15% odds of winning for her leadership of the minority Uyghur population in northwest China.

“It is possible that they might ignore the role of the Aceh peace process, but I don’t find it likely for them to do that,” said Toennesson. “I must admit that I normally bet on people who are involved in real political peace processes — a mediator, or an organization dedicated to peace. But the current committee has a different profile and they are trying to widen the prize to new categories of winners.”

Among oddsmakers, there is speculation that the prize could even go to musicians, albeit ones with an activist bent. Irish online bookmaker Paddypower.com is giving Bob Geldof 6-1 odds of winning for his work in organizing a series of rock concerts to bring awareness to the plight of poor nations, and Bono 9-1 odds for his work on behalf of reducing debt and hunger in Africa, among his other campaigns. Meanwhile Australian betting site Centrebet.com only gives the duo 34-1 odds, but favors Ahtisaari now at about 2-1.

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