Workers Rush to Finish Before Pageant Begins
WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) _ Workers hammered and painted Friday in a final rush to finish the multimillion-dollar resort where Miss Universe 1995 was to be crowned just 24 hours later.
``We are going to make it,″ declared Amy Grey, a spokesperson for the 44th annual Miss Universe pageant, which is being held for the first time in Africa.
The last-minute construction brought complaints of dust and noise from organizers and some of the 82 contestants who have been rehearsing and posing for three weeks prior to the globally televised program. It will begin at 1 a.m. local time (8 p.m. EDT Friday) Saturday to accommodate U.S. viewers.
The pageant winner receives cash and prizes worth $220,000, including an African elephant named after her. Namibian officials hope the pageant will bring global recognition and tourism worth much more than the millions of dollars it has cost the cash-strapped nation to host the event.
More than 600 million viewers are expected to watch the pageant, few of them in Africa. Namibia is the only African nation with live broadcast rights, and few of its 2 million people own television sets.
Sweden’s Petra Hultgren was voted Miss Photogenic in preliminary judging Monday, while Maria Reyes of Spain won Best National Costume. Miss Nigeria, Toyin Enitan Raji, won Miss Congeniality.
At the preliminary judging, guests picked their way through construction rubble and sat on plastic chairs in front of the elaborate stage to be used for the television program.
Critics complain the $1.5 million the government paid to host the contest and the $1.6 million spent by the Namibian Broadcasting Corp. for television rights were wasted. The television’s employees union noted it has been told for years the station could not afford salary increases.
Since independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia has been a relatively stable democracy in volatile southern Africa. But much of the population still lives in undeveloped rural areas.
Unlike the 1994 pageant, when protesters in the Philippines demonstrated against the pageant’s cost and complained it degraded women, there was no public discontent in Namibia.
Miss Universe Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Madison Square Garden, a Paramount Communications company, produces the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. They are unconnected to the Miss World pageant held the past three years in neighboring South Africa.