The Miss World contest was mired in controversy last night amid claims that the hot favourite was frozen out because of a diplomatic feud.photo:Miss Norway
American teenager Alexandria Mills was crowned the winner of the 60th anniversary beauty contest on Saturday.
But the 18-year-old Miss USA’s celebrations were tainted by claims that there was no great surprise when Britain’s four contestants failed to make the final cut in the spectacular broadcast to an estimated one billion people around the world.
Insiders were shocked that stunning 23-year-old Norwegian university graduate Mariann Birkedal - the odds on favourite - didn’t even make the top five.
According to reports last night, observers speculated the judges bowed to pressure from Beijing, which is involved in a bitter international spat with Norway.
China is said to be furious after the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded the coveted prize to the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo earlier this month....
Before the results were announced, Miss Norway was the shortest-priced favourite in Miss World history at 6/5, while Miss USA lagged behind at 7/1. Miss England Jessica Linley, a 21-year-old law student from Nottingham, was an even longer 50/1 shot.
Kathrine Sorland, a Norwegian TV personality who came fourth in Miss World 2002, said she believed China’s fury at the Nobel Peace Prize committee had influenced the outcome. ‘I was sure she would win,’ she said. ‘They must have mixed politics and business. Without jumping to conclusions I would stress that Miss World competitions have always been political. And the relations between China and Norway are very strained at the moment.’
Miss Birkedal herself was more cautious on whether she had been cheated of the crown. ‘I have been very careful with speculating about that myself,’ she said. ‘It is kind of stupid to start thinking that if this or that had not occurred I would perhaps have been Miss World 2010. I do believe everything happens out of a reason.’ The contest was held in Sanya on China’s tropical Hainan Island for the fifth time in the last eight years.
Britain’s Dorset-born Ann Sidney, who won Miss World in 1964, was on the judge’s panel along with six other former winners. Founded by the late Eric Morley as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951, Miss World is the oldest international beauty pageant. It is still run by his widow, Julia, and has a long history of scandals and controversies.
This year was no exception. Even before the rumpus over Miss Norway’s early exit, the contest had to be moved from its original site in Vietnam because the location was an ecological heritage zone and local residents had allegedly been forcibly moved from their land.
With China as the host, Taiwan was unable to compete because Beijing does not recognise it as an independent country.
And on Saturday night, the Chinese audience gave Miss Japan the silent treatment, apparently protesting Japan’s claim to the Diaoyu Islands, a group of uninhabited rocks coveted for fishing and mineral rights.
The contest has had its fair share of controversies since its inception. The UK’s 1974 winner, Helen Morgan, was forced to resign after four days when she was revealed to be an unmarried mother and the 1980 Miss World, Gabriella Brun, from Germany, had to quit after it was discovered she posed naked for a magazine. In 2002, the beauty queens had to flee the host country, Nigeria, after 200 people died in riots which started after a newspaper suggested the Muslim prophet Mohammed would have chosen a wife from one of the contestants had he been alive.
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