Miss World 2002 - Azra Akin
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Turkish Model Wins Controversial Miss World
LONDON (Reuters) - A21 -year-old Turkish model and dancer took the Miss World (news - web sites) crown on Saturday in a contest moved to Britain from Nigeria after deadly Muslim-Christian riots sparked by controversy over the pageant.
"I am so happy and excited," Azra Akin,21 , told Reuters after winning the 2002 title and100 , 000pounds ($157,000) prize money ahead of Miss Colombia, Natalia Peralta, in second and Miss Peru, Marina Mora Montero, in third place.

"I hope to represent the women of the world in a good way," Akin said. The gala show in Alexandra Palace in London went ahead despite calls for its cancellation that followed last month's violence in Nigeria that killed more than 200 people.One prominent British feminist had said the women would be parading in "swimwear dripping with blood" if the show went on, and about half a dozen competitors withdrew.Akin, who was brought up in the Netherlands and lists belly-dancing and German flute-playing among her interests, said she had been "shocked" by the carnage in Nigeria but did not believe the Miss World event was responsible. "I wish people in the world would be more respectful to each other," she added, dressed in a glittering red dress. "People who think Miss World was to blame should research more about this competition, because we are doing great things." Although taking place on a dank day in England, the show had an African flavor, with footage and interviews from Nigeria, where the 88 contestants had been based before the riots.

HOPES FOR NIGERIAN RECOVERY
"Our thoughts go out to the families who have suffered, and we hope that Nigeria recovers swiftly and will finally be recognized for the beauty it possesses," U.S. presenter Sean Kannan said in the show's only formal reference to the violence. Muslim opposition to the pageant, originally planned to be held in Nigeria on the same day, boiled over after a local journalist wrote that Islam's Prophet Mohammad would have approved of Miss World and possibly married a competitor. Rioting broke out in the northern city of Kaduna, forcing shocked organizers to pull out of Nigeria. Inside London's Victorian-era, hilltop Alexandra Palace, contestants strutted onto the stage in evening ball gowns, swaying their hips to a sexy Latin rhythm. They were then introduced and shown in footage from Nigeria posing in bikinis in front of a waterfall and visiting local villages. Although sniffed at by many as anachronistic and sexist -- and not even broadcast in the event's home country Britain -- the show remains popular. Alexandra Palace was sold out, and millions watching it on television in 142 countries. In keeping with Miss World's new slogan for a politically correct age, "Beauty with a Purpose," the contestants sought to stress brains and social conscience as much as physical assets.

But there were moments to amuse cynics, including a glitch from Miss United States Rebekah Revels, who told the judges: "I admonish you to pick me." On a serious note, there was a pause -- at the contestants' request -- to remember Amina Lawal, sentenced to die by stoning under Islamic law in a northern Nigerian state for bearing a child outside marriage. A statement paid tribute to "all humans across the world who are threatened and abused." Even before the riots, some had been boycotting the show in Nigeria in solidarity with Lawal. In further controversy dogging the British-based Miss World organization, a Nigerian businesswoman began court proceedings on Friday to have the event's assets frozen over claims that she was owed $787, 000from a fund-raising dinner. Miss World organizer Julia Morley told Reuters the claim was "sad and mischievous" -- and she had no assets anyway to be frozen.

China will be the host nation for Miss World2003 .
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Miss World (news - web sites) 2002, Azra Akin from Turkey, waves to the crowd after winning the event in London, Saturday, Dec.7 ,2002 . (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Turkey's Miss World (news - web sites) contestant Azra Akin is crowned Miss World 2002 at Alexandra Palace in London December7 ,2002 . Akin beat Miss Columbia Natalia Peralta and Miss Peru Marina Mora Montero who came second and third respectively. Photo by Kieran Doherty/Reuters
The newly crowned Miss World (news - web sites), Miss Turkey, Azra ), Miss Turkey, Azra Akin, right, with last year's winner Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego at Alexander Palace in north London, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002. (AP Photo/Stefan Rousseau/PA)


Miss World (news - web sites) 2002Azra Akin from Turkey puts her hands on her crown after winning the event in London, Saturday, Dec.7 ,2002 . (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


Miss World (news - web sites) 2002Azra Akin from Turkey, center, gets a congratulatory kiss from Miss Norway, Kathrine Sorland, left, as Miss Peru Marina Montero looks on after the event in London, Saturday, Dec.7 ,2002 . (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Turkey's Miss World (news - web sites) contestant Azra Akin (C), flanked by Miss Columbia Natalie Peralta (L) and Miss Peru Marina Mora Montero, celebrates being crowned Miss World 2002 at Alexandra Palace in London December2002 7 . Akin beat Miss Columbia and Miss Peru who came second and third respectively. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

Turkey's Miss World (news - web sites) contestant Azra Akin celebrates being crowned Miss World 2002 at Alexandra Palace in London, December7 ,2002 . Akin beat Miss Columbia Natalia Peralta and Miss Peru Marina Mora Montero who came second and third respectively. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

Miss World (news - web sites) 2002Azra Akin from Turkey wearing her crown waves her national flag after winning the event in London, Saturday, Dec.7 ,2002 . (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Miss Turkey, Azra Akin, center, is congratulated by fellow contestants after being crowned Miss World (news - web sites) at Alexandra Palace, North London Saturday Dec.7 ,2002 . At right is Miss Peru, Marina Mora Montero, who was third in the competition. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)

Miss China, Yingna Wu on stage at Alexandra Palace, North London Saturday Dec.7 , 2002 at the start of the 2002 Miss World (news - web sites) competition. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Miss Jamaica, Danielle Ohayon, center, leads her fellow contestants onto the stage at Alexandra Palace, north London Saturday Dec. 7, 2002 at the start of the 2002 Miss World (news - web sites) competition. Ninety two contestants from all over the world are competing for the title. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Miss Germany, Simone Wolf-Reinfurt, stands with fellow contestants on stage at Alexandra Palace, North London Saturday Dec.7 , 2002 at the start of the 2002 Miss World (news - web sites) competition. Ninety-two contestants from all over the world are competing for the title. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Miss Australia, Nicole Gazal, on stage at Alexandra Palace, London Saturday Dec.7 , 2002 at the start of the 2002 Miss World (news - web sites) competition. Ninety two contestants from all over the world are competiting for the title. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Miss World (news - web sites) contestants pose for the cameras during a group photocall in London Thursday Dec.5 ,2002 . The 2002 Miss World competition will take place in London Saturday Dec. 7 with some 90 participants. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)