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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 18:06 GMT
Miss World founder dies
Eric Morley and 1998 Miss World Diana Hayden
Morley with Miss World 1998, Diana Hayden from India
British impresario Eric Morley, who created the Miss World competition, has died at the age of 82.

Morley, who devised the competition in 1951, died on Thursday at the Princess Grace Hospital in west London after a heart attack.

The previous day he had missed the launch of the Miss World 2000 contest with what had been described as a "bad back".

The announcementof his death was made by Channel 5, which is televising this year's event at the Millennium Dome in London on 30 November.

Eric and Julia Morley in 1987
Eric Morley with his wife Julia
His career in the entertainment industry started in 1946 when he joined the Mecca organisation. It grew into one of the UK's largest leisure groups with Morley as its chairman.

Miss World began as a promotional vehicle for Mecca, and profits from the pageant were donated to charities.

It was launched in 1951, timed to tie in with the Festival of Britain.

Global audience

Eric Morley was a giant man in every sense of the word

Tony Hatch, Variety Club
Morley's wife Julia took over day-to-day control of the contest in 1968 and in 1970 started to aim it at audiences around the globe.

The event grew in popularity around the world, and presently claims a television audience of two billion people.

In the UK, more than 18 million people watched it at its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Demonstration outside Miss World 1999 in London
Miss World contests were regularly dogged by demonstrations
However, in the late 1980s it became increasingly unfashionable in its home country. It disappeared from British screens when it was dropped by ITV.

It returned to mainstream TV in 1998 with the newly-launched Channel 5.

British success

Morley is also credited with setting up the BBC's Come Dancing programme, which celebrated its 50th season in 1998.

As Mecca chairman he helped to popularise bingo, introducing the game to the company's venues across the UK.

He left Mecca in 1978 after falling out with its parent company, Grand Metropolitan.

Morley was a loyal supporter of the UK entertainers' charity, The Variety Club of Great Britain.

The organisation's chief barker Tony Hatch said: "Eric Morley was a giant man in every sense of the word, one of the great humanitarians of the 20th century.

"He will be sadly missed by all his friends throughout the world."

A spokeswoman for Channel 5 said Julia Morley was "in shock" and had asked for privacy.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Forsyth mourns Miss World founder
09 Nov 00 | Entertainment
The man who became Mr World
13 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Springer's date at the Dome
05 Dec 99 | World
Miss India takes World Crown
09 Nov 00 | Entertainment
The man who became Mr World
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