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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 December, 2003, 00:55 GMT
China set for Miss World contest
Miss World 2003 contestants wave while on stage following the last rehearsal
A record 106 women are vying for this year's crown
China is gearing up to host the annual Miss World beauty pageant later on Saturday for the first time.

Organiser say some two billion people around the world are expected to watch the competition which will take place on China's tropical island of Hainan.

China, which only recently lifted a 54-year ban on beauty contests, has spent millions sprucing up the venue.

Last year, the contest was engulfed in controversy when bloody riots erupted in the host nation Nigeria.

At least 200 people died when Muslims attacked Christians in northern Nigeria following a local newspaper's report that the Prophet Mohammed might have enjoyed the show.

The riots forced the competition to decamp from Nigeria to Britain.

'China's Hawaii'

Beauty queens from a record 106 countries have been parading before the cameras in recent days at China's historic sites and beauty spots.

Contestants at Great Wall
Hosting Miss World will broaden China's horizons, say organisers

They wrapped themselves in fur coats on a snowy Great Wall and unpacked their swimsuits on the southern island of Hainan dubbed as "China's Hawaii".

The televised finals are expected to begin on Saturday at about 1300 GMT - with China hoping for a record audience.

The city of Sanya has spent more than $30 million sprucing itself up for the cameras, as the show for the first time will be shown on China's state television.

A $12 m complex was built especially for the pageant.

Among the panel of judges of this year's finals are the Hollywood actor and martial arts star, Jackie Chan, and the Miss World 2001 from Nigeria, Agbani Darego.

Bourgeois decadence

Until recently, beauty pageants were banned in China.

After the Communist revolution of 1949, authorities in Beijing dismissed the show as an example of exploitation and bourgeois decadence.

But the explosion of economic growth and the loosening of social controls of the past few years has led to a growing preoccupation with how people look.

Fashion show catwalks have sprung up in shopping malls and Western designer labels are everywhere.

The BBC's Louisa Lim
"China has thrown itself into hosting Miss World"

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02 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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10 Dec 02  |  Asia-Pacific
In the eye of the beholder?
04 Dec 03  |  In Depth
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26 Nov 03  |  South Asia
The heavy cost of light skin
18 Apr 00  |  Africa

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