IT WAS billed as a celebration of female beauty and family values set against the picturesque backdrop of Russia’s second city of St Petersburg.
Instead, the Mrs World 2006 contest has become a showcase for the sort of political intrigue, bureaucratic intransigence and organisational chaos that has plagued post-Soviet Russia.
First of all, several contestants were refused visas for last month’s beauty pageant, in which entrants had to be over 18 and married.
Then, the Mrs World prize jewellery was impounded at St Petersburg’s airport because customs officials said it was not accompanied by the correct paperwork.
Now contestants are accusing the organisers of rigging the competition in favour of Mrs Russia.
When the contest finally went ahead on April 29, the crown was at first awarded to Mrs Costa Rica, Andrea Bermudez-Romero. But no sooner was she crowned than David Marmel, the pageant’s American producer, leapt on to the stage and announced that there had been a mistake.
Without further explanation, the crown was whisked off a weeping Mrs Costa Rica’s head and handed to Mrs Russia — Sofia Arzhakovskaya, 18, a dancer, who is married to Sergei Veremeyenko, a banker ranked as Russia’s 100th richest man.
Not sure what to add to this story, except complete non-surprise and a hearty guffaw.