Johannesburg, Dec 13: Scores of international beauties took to the stage today as the Miss World pageant in South Africa started to the beat of African drums.
Beamed live to more than one billion viewers in 187 countries, the women paraded on stage in dresses by South African and Jamaican designers, while African dancers performed.
The show caps a gruelling month for the contestants, who have criss-crossed the country for galas, rehearsals and even a safari on the tip of the African continent.
Dressed in colourful, flowing gowns, the contestants were introduced in groups while dancers entertained the crowd. With them all on stage, the flags of the world were paraded through the audience.
This year, the event includes a high-tech twist with an online competition where viewers can vote for their favourite beauty.
The winner of the online vote will go directly to the semi-final round, where Miss Barbados, Miss Mexico, Miss Russia and Miss Iceland have already secured spots by winning special competitions in the run-up to the big show.
An international jury will decide on the next Miss World, who will succeed China`s Zhang Zi Lin, who was crowned last year when the pageant was held in her home country.
"Last year I was representing China but this year I am in South Africa, I`m going to hand over the crown to the new Miss World," she said before the show.
South Africa hopes the pageant will help overcome Johannesburg`s reputation for crime and promote the city as a tourist spot.
The competition was originally scheduled for October 4 in Kiev, but was delayed in September over security concerns due to the conflict between neighbours Russia and Georgia.