Made Arya Kencana
Denpasar. Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika met with beauty queens and an international event organizer on Wednesday as the island geared up to host the Miss World pageant next year.
Julia Morley, chairwoman of the Miss World Organization, told reporters that Bali would host the competition in September 2013 and that 131 national beauty pageant winners had confirmed their attendance.
Pastika said the province was prepared to host the event, which he hoped would draw international attention to the island.
“We’re ready, but we’re continuing to work on improving infrastructure and security for the competition,” he added.
Joining Pastika in the meeting was Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela, who won the Miss World pageant last year, as well as Miss Indonesia Astrid Ellena Indriana Yunadi, who made it to the top 15 in the pageant and took home a joint award in the category of “beauty with a purpose.”
Morley said Bali was chosen for the pageant because of its culture and global popularity.
“I feel better when I’m here and surrounded by such friendly people,” she said. “Next year, I want to stay longer.”
However, the one-month pageant will likely draw protests across the country from hard-line Muslims, who stage public protests every year when Indonesian contestants join any international beauty competition.
In 2007, protests by Islamic fundamentalist groups in Bandung also forced a Miss Universe pageant winner to call off a planned evening charity event.
The protesters said the beauty queen, Japan native Riyo Mori, went “against Shariah” law and was “a symbol of the world’s adultery and pornography.”
An organizer of the charity event said that Mori suffered “psychological stress following a strong protest and decided to stay in her hotel” where the event was supposed to take place.
This year, in the wake of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decision to form a controversial anti-pornography task force, observers say that radical groups may try to hijack the Miss World pageant in Bali to garner public sympathy by branding themselves as allegedly anti-pornography organizations.
Pastika, however, dismissed the suggestion of possible protests, saying that Indonesians should be proud of Bali and the opportunity to host the international event.
“This will ensure that Bali is even better known around the world,” he said.
Bali hosted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit last year and will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November 2013.
Pastika added that after the filming of “Eat Pray Love,” starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem in Bali, the island had a new nickname, the “Island of Love.”