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Miss Turkey Wins Controversial Miss World Beauty Contest - 2002-12-07

And the winner is, Miss Turkey. The controversy-plagued Miss World 2002 competition is finally over with the crowning in London of this year's pageant victor.

Over more than 50 years, the Miss World competition has faced a number of problems, but nothing like the ones encountered this year. Almost from the outset, the extravaganza was beset with difficulties.

It was to take place in Nigeria, but when an article by a Nigerian journalist sparked Muslim-Christian riots there and more than 200 people were killed, a decision was hastily taken to relocated the competition to London.

For some, it was too much, with a handful of contestants deciding to drop out, but 92 remained. And on Saturday, they strutted onto the stage at London's Alexandra Palace and after two hours, a new winner was announced.

With a gleaming smile and a graceful bow, Miss Turkey, Azra Akin accepted the glittering tiara and the $156,000 prize. She beat out Miss Colombia and Miss Peru who came in as the runner-up and third place holder.

Miss Akin, who was raised by her Turkish parents in the Netherlands, pledged to represent the women of the world in a good way. And the pageant tried to shed its old image which had been criticized by some for being sexist with a contest whose motto was "beauty with a purpose." Among this year's contestants were lawyers, businesswomen, architects and a doctor.

Given this year's problems, organizer Julia Morley must have felt glad that it was finally over and that a new winner had been chosen. Afterwards, she said the violence in Nigeria cannot be blamed on the competition.

"You cannot keep blaming Miss World for something we did not do and I think the quicker that is recognized, the quicker everyone can realize that Nigeria is a beautiful country," she said. "I believe that the world needs tourism and not terrorism and I would like people to get on the bandwagon of doing something good, reasonable and respectful to each country, not try to pull it to pieces."

The competition was beamed around the world to 132 different countries with an estimated total television audience of two billion.