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Miss Greece now Miss World, despite pageant protests

November 23, 1996
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EST (2110 GMT)

BANGALORE, India (CNN) -- Greece's Irene Skilva was crowned Miss World 1996 Saturday in an elaborate ceremony that contrasted sharply with the scene outside the stadium, where anti-pageant protesters pelted police with rocks and militant women threatened to set themselves on fire. movie icon (1M/28 sec. QuickTime movie)

Skilva, an 18-year-old model, received the silver tiara from 1995 winner Jacqueline Aguilera Marcano of Venezuela at the conclusion of a two-hour show that was broadcast to millions around the world.

Miss Colombia, Carolina Arango, was the first runner-up, while Miss Brazil Anuska Prado placed third. About 88 contestants participated in the event.

Earlier Saturday, about 1,000 demonstrators shouted "Go home, Miss World!" and tried to block roads leading to the Bangalore cricket stadium where the pageant took place. Police swung bamboo canes, fired rubber bullets and launched tear gas at the protesters.

The protesters said the pageant treats women as objects and benefits only plastic surgeons and cosmetics manufacturers. Organizers contend it will help boost tourism and encourage international investment in India.

Police accused of brutality

At least 1,000 people were detained and another 50 were injured, police said. They also said the leader of a group of women who had threatened to set themselves on fire in the stadium remained at large.

Protesters later demanded a judicial investigation into what they claimed was police brutality.

Saturday's demonstrations followed weeks of protests against the pageant. A dozen groups ranging from right-wing political parties to Communists have marched, filed court challenges, blocked roads and burned effigies. One student in a nearby town committed suicide by setting himself on fire as he shouted anti-pageant slogans.

Responding to a question from the judges during one segment of the show, Miss Greece said today's society calls for a versatile woman.

"She can be wife, she can be mother, she can be career woman," Skilva said, speaking in English. "And I'm sure you'll agree with me that she can make it very well in all three."

Light rain fell all day but let up shortly before the show opened with a traditional Indian blowing of conch shells.

On stage were hundreds of performers, many in shimmering blue skirts. In deference to Indian mores, the contestants wore long transparent skirts over their swimsuits. Women in ruby red veils trimmed with gold danced with men wearing turbans and brandishing swords.

Lumbering elephants bedecked with glittering stones later entered the set, which resembled the ruins of the 14th century Hindu temple complex of nearby Hampi.

The 88 contestants introduced themselves in brief video clips before the lineup was reduced to 10 semifinalists.

Large sections of the stadium were vacant as people -- deterred by high ticket prices and the possibility of violence -- opted to stay away. The finals were televised in 150 countries.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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