ORDOS, China (AFP) - Miss China, Yu Wenxia, won the Miss World crown for 2012 on Saturday, defeating more than 100 other hopefuls at a glittering ceremony in a Chinese mining city on the edge of the Gobi desert.
A total of 116 contestants - the highest number ever - were scheduled to don their finest evening gowns and swimwear for the evening contest, which is watched annually by around a billion people around the globe.
This year it took place on the arid and sparsely populated steppes of Inner Mongolia, where Ordos, around 700 kilometres (440 miles) from the nearest beach, made an unusual venue for the world’s biggest beauty pageant. Reigning Miss World Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela will hand over her crown in the futuristic Ordos stadium, which sits alongside a vast town square dedicated to the mighty Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan.
The city 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.
The boom triggered a frenzy of building in the city, but the local govt has been unable to fill the vast tower blocks that have sprung up, earning it the title of China’s biggest ghost town.
Competitors seemed unfazed, expressing optimism that with the help of the pageant, the city could leave that reputation behind and take its place alongside other global centres of glitz and glamour.
“Ordos could be the next Dubai,” said Marielle Wilkie, representing the Caribbean nation of Barbados. Albanian contestant Floriana Garo chimed in with her own bold prediction.
“In ten years, this city will be booming,” she said. Architecture in Ordos - where the city museum is shaped like an undulating blob - is “world class”, added Markysa O’Loughlin, representing St. Kitts and Nevis, also in the Caribbean.