Miss China won the coveted title of Miss World on Saturday, triumphing on home soil during a glitzy final held in a mining city on the edge of the Gobi desert.
The mostly Chinese audience erupted in cheers, and fireworks lit up the sky, when it was announced that the home candidate, Yu Wenxia, had been awarded the coveted title.
Newly crowned Miss World Yu Wenxia of China waves after she won the Miss World 2012 beauty pageant at the Ordos Stadium Arena in inner Mongolia, China Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. (AP-Yonhap News)
Miss World 2012 winner Yu Wenxia (C) of China, second place contestant Miss Wales Sophie Moulds (L) and third place Miss Australia Jessica Kahawaty (R) pose for photos following the pageant's final ceremony at the Ordos Stadium Arena in the inner Mongolian city of Ordos on August 18, 2012. China's Yu Wenxia of China defeated more than 100 other hopefuls at the glittering ceremony held in the Chinese mining city of Ordos, on the edge of the Gobi desert. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Runner-up Miss Australia Jessica Kahawaty, right, smiles after she was crowned by Miss World 2011 Ivian Lunasol Sarcos Colmenares of Venezuela during the Miss World 2012 beauty pageant at the Ordos Stadium Arena in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. (AP-Yonhap News)
"When I was young I felt very lucky because so many people helped me, and I hope in the future I can help more children to feel lucky," Yu, a 23-year-old aspiring music teacher said when asked why she should be crowned.
Yu, who became China's second Miss World winner, appeared on stage in a dazzling array of ballgowns during the two-hour final and serenaded the audience with a piercing rendition of a popular Chinese song.
Last year's Miss World, Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela, handed over her crown to Yu, who wore a sparkling blue dress, in the futuristic Dongsheng stadium in the northeastern city of Ordos.
Miss Mexico, Mariana Reynoso, had been the bookmakers' favourite for the title, but failed to make the last seven candidates despite a strong showing in the early rounds of the pageant. Miss Wales, Sophie Moulds, came in second, while Miss Australia, Jessica Kahawaty, finished third.
The final, watched by a worldwide TV audience of an estimated one billion viewers, included a nod to the culture of Inner Mongolia, with a performance by a group of Mongolian musicians playing the erhu, a traditional two-stringed instrument.
Ordos, which sits around 700 kilometers (440 miles) from the nearest beach, was an unlikely setting for the world's biggest beauty pageant.
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 struggled to fill the vast tower blocks that sprung up, earning it the title of China's biggest ghost town.
However, enthusiastic competitors seemed unfazed by the locale, expressing optimism that with the help of the pageant, the city could leave its reputation behind and take its place alongside other global centres of glitz and glamour.
"Ordos could be the next Dubai," Marielle Wilkie, representing the Caribbean nation of Barbados, confidently predicted.
Albanian contestant Floriana Garo chimed in with her own bold statement.
"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.
Contestants churned yoghurt in a nomad's yurt and donned local dress to climb sand dunes during their month-long stint in China. Video clips shown during the final showed the beauty queens posing in swimwear on desert sand dunes.
A total of 116 contestants -- the highest ever number to take part -- took to the stage during the final in a variety of stunning gowns.
A red ceremonial flag was passed over to representatives from the Southeast Asian resort island of Bali, hosts of the 2013 Miss World Final, during the ceremony.
While the popularity of the contest, first held in 1951, has waned in the West, continued interest in Asian countries ensures that the final rakes in a huge global television audience.
Sweden's Kiki Hakansson was the first Miss World, while Oscar-winning US actress Halle Berry was a finalist in 1986 and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai took the crown in 1994.
Venezuela has produced the most Miss Worlds, with six winners, while India and Britain claim five titles each. (AFP)
'2012 미스월드' 왕관 거머쥔 미스 중국
2012 미스월드 선발대회에서 중국 대표로 출전한 위원샤(于文霞•23)가 우승을 차지했다.
올해 대회는 18일 중국 네이멍구(內蒙古)자치구 내 탄광 도시인 오르도스(鄂爾多斯)에서 열렸다.
중국인 관객들은 자국 후보가 최종심에서 1위에 오르자 환호성을 터뜨렸다. 위 원샤는 지난해 우승자인 미스 베네수엘라 이비안 사르코스(23)에게서 왕관을 물려받았다. 중국의 미스 월드 배출은 이번이 두 번째다.
위원샤는 자신이 미스월드로 뽑혀야 하는 이유를 묻자 "어릴 적 많은 사람에게 도움을 받으며 나는 정말 운이 좋다고 생각했다"며 "앞으로는 더 많은 아이들이 그런 느낌을 받을 수 있도록 내가 도움을 주고 싶다"고 답했다.
장차 음악 교사가 되겠다는 위원샤는 대관식 중 무대에서 중국의 인기 노래를 부르기도 했다.
대회 전 도박업자들 사이에서 유력한 우승후보로 거론됐던 미스 멕시코 마리아나 레이노소(20)는 대회 초반 강세를 보였으나 최종 7인에 오르지 못했다.
2위와 3위는 미스 웨일스인 소피아 몰드와 미스 호주인 제시카 카하와티가 각각 차지했다.
대회가 열린 오르도스는 바다와 700㎞ 떨어진 사막 한가운데 위치한 도시로 광산 개발붐을 타고 최근 10년 새 급성장해 지금은 중국 최고 부촌 중 하나로 꼽힌다.
이번 대회에서는 역대 최다인 116명의 각국 대표들이 참가해 초현대적인 디자인 의 오르도스 경기장에서 미를 뽐냈다.
2013 미스월드 대회는 인도네시아 발리에서 열린다.