INDONESIA - The annual Miss World beauty pageant officially started on Sunday with a grand opening ceremony to welcome the arrival of 130 contestants from around the world, in an event showcasing the splendor and magnificence of Indonesia's cultures.
Held in The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali, the opening ceremony aired to more than 160 countries worldwide, combining traditional Indonesian dances and music performed by the contestants and local artists.
The spectacular opening show started with performances by singers Novita Dewi, Kamasean Matthews and Daniel Christanto singing a medley of Indonesian songs, "Tanah Airku" and "Nyiur Hijau", followed by 150 local dancers performing the famed kecak dance choreographed by Balinese artist I Ketut Rina.
The 150-minute show, attended by hundreds of state officials and ambassadors and watched by an estimated two billion people around the world, continued with the parade of the beautiful contestants wearing dresses by Indonesian designers.
Sixteen of the candidates were selected to perform Tari Kipas Cendana, an Indonesian dance specially created for this show by choreographer Eko Supriyanto. The dance combined the cultures of Halmahera, Sunda, Java and Bali, accompanied by an acculturation of various traditional musical instruments.
"It was a first-time experience for the contestants to learn this kipas dance. They were very enthusiastic and learned quite fast. After a total seven hours of practice, they were already able to perform it well," said John Fair, head of production and operations for Miss World 2013.
With the theme "Bring Indonesia's Beauty to the World", the entire series of events of Miss World 2013, organised by Miss World Organisation and its local partner MNC Group, ran on schedule, despite mounting protests from Islamic hard-line groups in several cities across Indonesia.
The organizers have promised that all activities in the event would be in accordance with Indonesian culture.
"It's an honour for Indonesia to host Miss World 2013, where 130 nations' ambassadors will be competing to be crowned Miss World 2013. This is a time for Indonesia to show its natural and cultural beauty to the world," said Liliana Tanoesoedibjo, chairwoman of the Miss Indonesia Organisation.
"This event aims to spread the message to international society that Indonesia is a safe, peaceful, beautiful place with over 17,000 islands, united by a bountiful sea, with its plural society comprising over 700 ethnicities and 500 local languages that honour the differences and preserve rich local genius, history and cultures."
In spite of the protests, the organising committee said the contestants felt very welcomed in Indonesia.
"We feel very welcomed to be here. I believe that by being here, we can share and do something good together. This is a very great opportunity for Indonesia, as the first country in Southeast Asia selected to host this event," said Julia Morley, chairwoman and chief executive of Miss World 2013.
The contestants started their activities last Wednesday, one day after their arrival in Bali. They took turns making photos and videos for their profiles, with the backdrop of the island's natural beauty.
On the sidelines of the filming sessions, the contestants practiced exhibiting their talents for the upcoming talent show. Vania Larissa, Indonesia's contestant, will sing "Seriosa" while playing the sasando, a traditional musical instrument from East Nusa Tenggara.
"I have prepared a lot of things for the talent show and all the fast tracks. My mission is to bring Indonesia to the world, and I hope all the contestants will enjoy their time here," Vania said.
During the contest, the contestants will compete in six award categories: the talent competition, beach fashion, top model, sports and fitness, beauty with a purpose and the world fashion designer award.
After the opening show, the event will continue with Miss World 2013 top model on Sept. 20, while the final show will be on Sept. 28.
On Saturday, the government announced that the entire series of events would be held in Bali, including the final show that had previously been scheduled to take place in Sentul, West Java.
MNC Group said it would hold further discussions with the government concerning the change.
"We will have further talks with the government to reaffirm our commitment that this event will not violate legal, social and religious norms that we all adhere to," said Arief Suditomo, head of media affairs for Miss World 2013. "Various technical aspects, like the venue, accommodation, transportation and all the arrangements, have been implemented according to the schedule. It's not easy and simple to change it."