The Miss World contest was mired in controversy today amid claims that the hot favourite was frozen out because of a diplomatic feud.
American teenager Alexandria Mills was crowned the winner of the 60th anniversary beauty contest on Saturday.
But the 18-year-old Miss USA’s celebrations were tainted by claims that her biggest rival, Miss Norway, was cheated out of the title by the competition’s Chinese hosts.
The stunning 23-year-old Norwegian university graduate Mariann Birkedal - the odds on favourite - didn’t even make the top five.
According to reports, observers speculated the judges bowed to pressure from Beijing, which is involved in a bitter international spat with Norway.
China is said to be furious after the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded the coveted prize to the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo earlier this month.
Before the results were announced, Miss Norway was the shortest-priced favourite in Miss World history at 6/5, while Miss USA lagged behind at 7/1. Kathrine Sorland, a Norwegian TV personality who came fourth in Miss World 2002, said she believed China’s fury at the Nobel Peace Prize committee had influenced the outcome.
‘I was sure she would win,’ she said. ‘They must have mixed politics and business. Without jumping to conclusions I would stress that Miss World competitions have always been political. And the relations between China and Norway are very strained at the moment.’
Miss Birkedal herself was more cautious on whether she had been cheated of the crown.