More than 100 beautiful women from across the globe will vie for the Miss World crown in the Chinese resort of Sanya on Saturday in a pageant sure to deliver sex appeal and glamour.
British bookmaker William Hill listed Norway’s Mariann Birkedal, a 23-year-old blue-eyed brunette who earned an automatic spot in the final by clinching the preliminary Top Model title, as the hot favourite for the crown.
A win for Norway could cause a stir in Beijing, where the government is furious that the Oslo-based Nobel committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
With only a few hours to go before the competition, William Hill listed Birkedal’s odds of winning at 6/5, followed by Alexandria Mills of the United States and Yara Santiago of Puerto Rico, both at 7/1.
Serbia’s Milica Jelic is fourth in the running, according to the bookmaker.
“I really can?t believe I?ve been chosen best model out of so many wonderful girls here,” said Birkedal. “It?s a great honour for me and, of course, I?m delighted to be in the top 25. Now I can look forward to the final.”
After a month-long tour of China, from visiting the striking Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing to shopping in Shanghai, the 115 contestants have now invaded Hainan island’s pristine beaches for the main event.
The competition, which was first held in 1951 and is being staged in Sanya for the fifth time in eight years, annually rakes in a global television audience of about a billion viewers. It begins at 8:00 pm (1200 GMT).
“Miss World has a special relationship with Sanya and there is no better place to begin our 60th year celebrations,” the pageant’s co-chairwoman Julia Morley said on the official website.
The glittering final competition, to be judged by seven former Miss Worlds including 1953 winner Denise Perrier Lanfranchi of France, will see the reigning glamour queen, Kaiane Aldorino of Gibraltar, relinquish her throne.
The event rivals the Miss Universe pageant owned by US tycoon Donald Trump, which was won by Mexico’s Jimena Navarrete in August.
The Miss World competition emphasises the importance of charity work.
Miss ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ — Kenya’s Natasha Metto, who has worked on combating an epidemic of parasitic Jigger fleas in her country — is one of several contestants who have earned “fast-track” spots to the finals by winning mini-titles.
Along with “Top Model” Birkedal, Santiago booked her place with the Beach Beauty title, and Ireland’s violin-playing Emma Waldron won the talent contest.
Lori Moore of Northern Ireland, a 20-year-old hockey and netball enthusiast, also secured her spot by taking the Sportswoman crown.
In 2002, the pageant was moved from Nigeria to Britain after more than 200 people died in clashes sparked when a newspaper suggested the Muslim prophet Mohammed would have chosen a wife from among the contestants had he been alive.