Beauty queens from all over the planet made final preparations to compete for the Miss World title yesterday in a Chinese mining city on the edge of the Gobi.
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 1 billion people around the globe.
This year it takes place on the arid and sparsely populated steppes of Inner Mongolia, where Ordos, about 700km from the nearest beach, makes an unlikely setting for the world’s biggest beauty pageant.
Reigning Miss World Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela was to 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 past 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 government has been unable to fill the vast tower blocks that have sprung up, earning it the title of China’s biggest ghost town.
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 dress to climb a sand dune, according to Miss World’s Web site.
Contestants vying for this year’s title include a Kazakh doctor and a Peruvian medical student, but the bookmakers were tipping Miss Mexico, 20-year-old Mariana Reynoso, for the crown.
“There’s a lot of good feeling surrounding the Mexican contestant,” said Tony Kenny, spokesman for bookmaker William Hill, which is offering odds of 2/1 on Reynoso.