ORDOS: Miss China Yu Wenxia won the coveted title of Miss World on August 18, triumphing on home soil in a mining city on the edge of the Gobi desert.
The mostly Chinese audience erupted in cheers when it was announced that the home candidate, Yu Wenxia, had been awarded the title.
“When I was young I felt very lucky because so many people helped me and I hope in the future, I can help more children to feel lucky,” said Wenxia, who was wearing a glittering blue dress.
Last year’s Miss World — Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela — handed over her crown in the futuristic Dongsheng stadium in the northeastern city of Ordos.
The first runner-up is Sophie Elizabeth Moulds of Wales and the second runner-up is Jessica Michelle Kahawaty of Australia.
The others beauties to make to the top 7 were from India, Jamaica, South Sudan and Brazil.
A total of 116 contestants, the highest number ever, took to the stage during the contest, watched annually by about a billion people around the globe.
Ordos, around 700 km from the nearest beach, is an unusual venue for the world’s biggest beauty pageant.
Besides the traditional swimsuits and evening gowns, participants also donned outlandish costumes, with some dressed as belly dancers.
The beauty queens have been in China rehearsing for nearly a month, soaking up traditional Mongolian culture by churning yoghurt in a nomad’s yurt and donning local attire to climb a sand dune.
The city, which has a vast town square dedicated to the mighty Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan, has grown rich over the last decade on the back of a coal mining boom that has transformed it from a sandstorm-afflicted backwater into one of the wealthiest places in China.
Bookmakers had tipped Miss Mexico, 20-year-old Mariana Reynoso, for the crown, but Miss China was also seen as a leading contender along with Miss Nepal Shristi Shrestha. Shrestha had made it to the Top 10 in Miss World Beach Fashion but she could not make it to the Top 15 of the final round.
While the popularity of the contest, first held in 1951, has waned in the West, continued interest in Asian countries ensures that the final rakes in a huge global television audience.
Sweden’s Kiki Hakansson was the first Miss World, while Oscar-winning US actress Halle Berry was a finalist in 1986 and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai took the crown in 1994.
Venezuela has produced the most Miss Worlds, with six winners, while India and Britain claim five titles each.
China has already hosted the competition five times, most recently in 2010 on the tropical southern island of Hainan.
In 2002, the pageant was moved from Nigeria to Britain after more than 200 people died in clashes sparked when a newspaper suggested the Prophet Mohammed would have chosen a wife from among the contestants had he been alive.