A panda World Cup prediction show was halted hours before kickoff on Thursday.
Organizers dropped the "Paul the Octopus"-style project at the last minute after deciding it could have a negative impact on the giant pandas, said Heng Yi, spokesman for the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
The activity might create too much human contact, Hengsaid, denying reports that the event was stopped by the government. "We ourselves decided to stop the project," he told the Global Times.
The center designed three ways for the panda to predict results including selecting food from three bamboo baskets, climbing onto the trees with different countries' national flags in the knockout phase and racing to decide the winner.
Organizers had been preparing the event for days, according to posts by co-organizer Sohu Club on social media.
One post on June 11 said some colleagues had settled down in hotels at the Bifengxia base in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, where the show was to be staged.
A panda expert applauded the decision.
"I totally disagree with the idea," said Hu Quping, an expert on panda protection and promotion in Chengdu. "Using giant pandas for predictions is all a game for popular entertainment and degrading to the panda's cultural value."
The panda represents ecology and peace, he said. An animal should not be misused by greedy people simply for entertainment, he asserted.
Others speculated on potential positive meaning in the activity.
"If the activity actually promotes people's awareness of protecting the species, it's blameless if a few commercial stunts are behind it," said Zhao Huawen, founder of the Eudemonia Bank, an organization based in Chengdu dedicated to protecting the panda's habitat.
Meanwhile, a zoo in the East China city of Yangzhou staged a panda prediction show on Thursday. Ying Mei picked Brazil as winner in the first match against Croatia.