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Tensions mount in Sanya
Agence France-Presse, PTI
Sanya, China, December 03, 2004
First Published: 12:23 IST(3/12/2004)
Last Updated: 22:11 IST(3/12/2004)

Tensions were mounting on Friday as the bevy of Miss World beauty queens readied to woo the more than two billion people who will watch the event and pick the winner for the first time.

After three weeks of dieting, photo shoots and charity work on palm-dotted Hainan island, the 107 women vying to replace reigning Miss Ireland entered the final countdown ahead of Saturday's finale.

Organiser Julia Morley said 2.4 billion television viewers worldwide were expected to tune in for the final and many had already started voting over the telephone and Internet for who they want crowned queen.

Instead of the usual panel of celebrity judges, the winner for the first time this year will be decided by popular voting worldwide, which will close 30 minutes before the end of the final.

"It will be the biggest success ever this year," Morley predicted.

Although contestants have argued this week that beauty is not skin-deep, most were pre-occupied on Friday with hair-curling, make-up and flaunting themselves in sexy poses for the cameras.

During final rehearsals on Thursday night, the audience was treated to video clips of contestants singing, dancing or posing in swimsuits as they pleaded for the punters to pick them.

"I can touch many hearts so please vote for Australia," said 22-year-old Sarah Davies.

The blonde Miss Australia won a popular vote from other contestants to take her place among the 15 finalists who will vie for the top prize on Saturday.

Four others have already been named after winning preliminary competitions during the past weeks. They include Miss America, Miss Mexico, Miss Wales and Miss Antigua.

Ten more girls will be announced on Saturday.

Miss Singapore, Lisa Huang, said that although none of the Asia-Pacific contestants were among the five finalists already picked, she still had faith that they would do well.

"It is good enough as long as we do our best ... I feel calm and I have a lot of confidence that we'll bring honour to Asia." she said.

Miss China, Jin Yang, agreed.

"It is not important whether I win or not, now that I'm part of the competition I'm happy enough with what I've achieved," said the 20-year-old.

Morley, meanwhile, announced that Sanya would host Miss World for a third consecutive year in 2005.

"People have made us feel so welcomed, people have given us from their hearts a lot of love and affection ... that's why we want to stay," she told reporters.

She said security has been a consideration but stopped short of saying the sectarian violence in Nigeria in 2002 sparked by media comments on Miss World prompted her to again choose the uncontroversial sleepy resort.

Sanya Mayor Chen Ci said his government was more than happy to be hosting the event again and would do what it could to cash in on its international fame.

"Our target is to make Sanya the top regional tourist destination," he said.

Sanya is reminiscent of many other Southeast Asian tourist destinations with gleaming white beaches and azure ocean contrasting against lush rising green hills.

"Miss World has brought the world to Sanya and I feel we are rather lucky to be able to witness this," said Shu Xuan, who brought her young daughter to watch the rehearsal.


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