Miss World pageant returns to China

Miss World pageant returns to China

After a month-long tour of China, from visiting the striking Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing to shopping in Shanghai, contestants have now invaded Hainan island's pristine beaches for the early mini-contests and the main event.

Norway's Mariann Birkedal, the raven-haired 23-year-old who earned a spot in the final by taking the preliminary Top Model title, is tipped by bookmakers to take the crown -- a result that might anger authorities in Beijing.

China has been at odds with Oslo since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded earlier this month to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo -- and any glory for Norway, even in a beauty pageant, might ruffle some official feathers.

Also tipped by British bookmakers William Hill are Alexandria Mills of the United States, Yara Santiago of Puerto Rico, and Brazil's Kamilla Salgado.

The competition, which was first held in 1951 and is being staged in Sanya for the fifth time in eight years, annually rakes in a global television audience of about a billion viewers.
"Miss World has a special relationship with Sanya and there is no better place to begin our 60th year celebrations," the pageant's co-chairwoman Julia Morley said on the official website