Victory celebration: Did Pingu inspire Usain Bolt?

Matthew Bell on the spooky likeness between the sprinter's pose... and the TV penguin

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The Independent Online

As the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt is used to leading the way. But when it comes to his victory celebration, "the Bolt", it seems he may not have got there first. Viewers of Pingu, the long-running children's cartoon, have noticed that the little clay penguin throws a move eerily similar to Bolt's trademark in the opening credits of his show. As Pingu has been around since Bolt was born, some are wondering whether he may have inspired the Jamaican sprinter.

Bolt stormed on to the world stage in 2008, aged 21, when he scooped three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. After winning the 100m, he pulled the move that would help him become one of the most recognisable athletes on TV. The move involves pointing to the sky with his left arm, and holding his right arm down, simulating a streak of lightning. Prince Harry memorably posed doing "the Bolt" during his visit to Jamaica this year, and the move is credited with helping the 26-year-old athlete land lucrative sponsorship contracts including a £2m deal to promote Virgin broadband. However, about seven seconds into the opening credits of Pingu, the eponymous penguin strikes an almost identical move.

It's not the first time life has imitated children's TV. President Barack Obama won the 2008 election on a campaign using the phrase "Yes we can". As fans of Bob the Builder pointed out, this is the answer given to Bob's catchphrase "Can we fix it?". Intriguingly, Pingu is owned by the same TV company that makes Bob the Builder, HIT Entertainment. Though Pingu was created by Otmar Gutmann, a German television producer, and aired in Switzerland, the UK rights were bought by HIT for £15.9m in 2001. The deal included the first 105 episodes.

When the connection between President Obama and Bob the Builder was spotted, observers pointed out that the presidential candidate would have spent hours with his two young daughters watching cartoons. One British speechwriter, Max Atkinson, went so far as to claim that "two very reliable sources" had confirmed that Obama's slogan had been inspired by the yellow-helmeted workman, whose show has been aired in the United States since 2001.

Keith Chapman, who created Bob the Builder, said he thought President Obama had picked up his slogan subliminally, but said he had no plans to sue. "He's got his finger on the nuclear button and the whole of the US army under his command. I don't want Delta Force coming over my garden wall. He's free to use it as much as he likes."

Otmar Gutmann died aged 56 in 1993. Also that year, David Hasselhoff released a dance tune called "Pingu Dance", using samples of Pingu's incomprehensible language. The two events are not thought to be related.

The idea for Mo Farah's victory celebration, "the Mobot", was revealed to have come from the Village People's dance anthem "YMCA", via Clare Balding. Apparently, she suggested Farah adopt the move during an edition of the sports panel show League of their Own in May. Asked by host James Corden to come up with a move for Farah, who also appeared on the show, Balding said: "I think he should do the M from YMCA, the M for Mo." Farah agreed, and said: "I'll definitely do it."

Usain Bolt was less forthcoming, and his office did not return calls. A spokesman from HIT Entertainment said: "I don't think we'll be commenting in this instance."