- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

LONDON With a gleaming smile and a graceful bow, Miss Turkey won the Miss World contest yesterday, bringing to a close an international pageant that incited deadly rioting in Nigeria.
Azra Akin stood proudly to attention while her national anthem was played, after she accepted the glittering tiara and $156,000 prize from last year's winner, Nigeria's Agbani Darego.
"I hope I will represent the women of the world in a good way," said Miss Akin, wearing her new Miss World sash over a flamboyant red dress. "I think it is good for a woman to have this position, and I hope I can make a difference."
Miss Akin, who turns 21 today, was raised by her Turkish parents in the Netherlands.
Miss Colombia Natalia Peralta was declared runner-up while Miss Peru Marina Mora Montero took third place. Miss United States, Rebekah Revels of North Carolina, was among the 10 finalists.
Ninety-two contestants took part in the show, which was shunted to London after Muslim-Christian rioting last month killed more than 200 people, forcing it out of Nigeria.
Unlike the pageant's heyday in the 1970s, this year's contestants glided along the catwalk in evening gowns rather than swimsuits part of an effort to shed the show's sexist image.
But swimwear wasn't entirely absent. As the women strutted across the elaborate stage, footage of them shot beside a Nigerian waterfall was flashed across giant screens.
Despite its 11th-hour relocation, the 52nd pageant was slick and glitzy, watched by a sellout audience of several hundred at Alexandra Palace convention center in north London.
Organizers say the show was broadcast in 137 countries to a global audience of more than 2 billion. In Britain, however, where the pageant is widely seen as a quaint spectacle, no television channel agreed to broadcast it.
The Nigerian rioting was barely mentioned yesterday.
"Our thoughts go out to the families that suffered," said co-host Sean Kanan, an actor from the U.S. soap "The Bold and the Beautiful."
Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman sentenced to death by an Islamic court for adultery, gained a tribute. A statement read on behalf of the contestants remembered "all humans across the world who are threatened and abused."
Miss World is used to controversy. In 1970 in London, feminists threw bags of flour. In 1996, in the Indian city of Bangalore, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rock-throwing protesters, and one man committed suicide by self-immolation.

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