A late bid to shift the Miss World 2010 finals from Nha Trang to the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang has got people debating the pros and cons of each location
Miss World 2008 Ksenia Sukhinova of Russia visiting Tien Giang in June. In a surprising development, next year's pageant has been moved from Nha Trang to the Mekong Delta province
RAAS (Rare Antibody Antigen Supply, Inc.) received government permission last year to hold the 2010 pageant in Khanh Hoa Province on the central coast.
Then last October the company's chairman, Hoang Kieu, unveiled a plan to build a 1,530-hectare resort in Khanh Hoa's Nha Trang Bay and make it the venue for the beauty pageant.
But the project was criticized by scientists and environmentalists claiming it would spoil the bay, so Kieu dropped the idea in November.
Why Tien Giang?
Unlike Nha Trang, which already has an international reputation for its hosting of Miss Universe 2008, Miss Earth 2007 and other glamorous events, Tien Giang in the Mekong Delta is known for its fruit.
RAAS wants to move the pageant to Tien Giang as it would cost much less to hold it there, according to a provincial official who confirms that Tien Giang is seeking the central government's permission to become the official host of Miss World 2010.
Khanh Hoa would be much more expensive as RAAS would have to rent all the venues.
'A NORMAL CHANGE'
"Shifting the venue of the Miss World pageant is a normal change," said Le Tien Tho, deputy minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
"The ministry approves of Tien Giang or any other province that meets the demands of the event. If Tien Giang can hold such an event better than Khanh Hoa, why not? It will still be a great show."
According to Tho, the ministry on Friday (October 23) received documents from Tien Giang Province stating local authorities desire to hold the event there. The government has yet to hear Khanh Hoa's side of the story, he said. Tien Giang will be given the green-light as soon as Khanh Hoa provides an official notice of its withdrawal from the pageant, according to the deputy minister.
Another point in Tien Giang's favor is that Hoang Kieu is also the chairman of Tien Giang Tourism Joint Stock Company, which owns many hectares of useful land and facilities in Thoi Son Commune.
These could easily be developed into proper venues for the beauty pageant and the tourist trade.
Despite Thoi Son's lousy roads and lack of amenities and services, more than 400,000 tourists visit the area every year to enjoy its folk culture, scenery and plentiful fruit.
Nguyen Ngoc Minh, director of the Tien Giang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says Hoang Kieu now intends to build a five-star resort in Thoi Son as the main venue for next year's Miss World contest.
If it becomes a reality, the completed resort will have some 500 guest rooms, several restaurants, conference halls and performance stages, a recreation and sports complex, orchid gardens, and more.
An official of Khanh Hoa Province thinks moving the pageant away from Nha Trang will cause many difficulties for the organizer.
He says the provincial government has already started a campaign to support the event and will write to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to express its stance on the issue.
After permission came through last year, Nha Trang was promoted heavily as the host of the Miss World 2010 pageant.
Even four months ago, Kieu was still confirming it as the venue.
Now RAAS and Tien Giang are saying the pageant will bring a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop the province and the Mekong Delta in general, and to boost tourism in the region.
Huynh Duc Minh, party chief of the provincial capital My Tho, is delighted by the thought of Tien Giang hosting the pageant.
"The local authorities and people will join hands to do our best to upgrade our capacity to serve the contestants and visitors," says Minh.
However, there are worries that the province will not be able to prepare for the event in the short time remaining.
The amenities are limited. For instance, there is only one three-star hotel in My Tho Town. While the town's first four-star hotel is under construction, it will not be ready in time for the Miss World contest.
Since Ho Chi Minh City is only 70 kilometers away, suggests the official, it could team up with Tien Giang to serve the contestants and visitors.
But to the majority of people in Thoi Son Commune, it could be a dream come true.
Nguyen Viet Xuan, who owns a guest house in Thoi Son, is thrilled by the money-making possibilities.
"I'm thinking of doing up the place, fixing the garden and getting my staff professionally trained," says a forward-looking Xuan.
Local businessman Le Thai, ever on the lookout for new ways to invest, believes opportunities should be shared.
"If the government thinks a large-scale event can only be held somewhere with a tradition and reputation for organizing such things, it would be disappointing," says Thai.
"Tien Giang and its people or any other provinces can develop well if they get the opportunity to challenge themselves."
With all the talk in the air and the prospect of untold riches, it's no wonder that property prices in Thoi Son are shooting up.
"Can you imagine? A garden plot of 1,000 meters square has just been sold for more than triple the price it would have fetched three months ago," exclaims Nguyen Phuc Dung, chairman of Thoi Son People's Committee.
Taking it nationwide
As Tien Giang waits for the government's blessing to host the Miss World contest, other parts of the country are also gearing up for the occasion.
RAAS says that, whether or not Tien Giang is chosen, the big events in Hanoi, HCMC, Hue, Hoi An and elsewhere leading up to the grand finale will make Miss World 2010 more of a festival than a mere beauty contest.
This is especially so as next year will be the pageant's 60th anniversary as well as the millennium of Thang Long-Hanoi.