Miss Universe Great Britain pageant contest in London shut down by police

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A Miss Universe Great Britain pageant was shut down by police on Saturday after what organisers believe was a tip-off from a disgruntled photographer.

Organisers were allegedly told the event was "not in the spirit of Covid" – but they claim to have been social distancing and wearing masks.

Dr Vincent Wong is the head judge of Miss Universe Great Britain, which attempted to hold a final at Radisson Blu Heathrow hotel on Saturday — just hours before London entered Tier 4.

"Traditionally Miss Universe Great Britain happens in July, but obviously because of everything going on this year it couldn't happen," he told the Daily Star.

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Pageant organisers are under contract to select a representative by the end of the year, and it is "in all purposes a business", he explains.

Saturday's event was kept under wraps and the 19 contestants weren't allowed to advertise it on social media to minimise the risk of members of the public turning up.

Unlike previous years' pageants, there was no cheering crowd to witness the wannabe beauty queens answer interview questions and model evening wear.

Contestants were forbidden from bringing any guests or family members with them, and the judging panel was cut down to just four people who sat in a "huge space" in the hotel, along with one organiser.

"The girls came in one by one, so at any point there were a maximum of six people in the room, all wearing masks," Dr Wong said.

"I'm a doctor so I make sure everyone was distanced, had hand sanitiser and was taking all precautions we're supposed to."

Miss Universe Great Britain had met with teams from Radisson Blu beforehand, and Dr Wong said they had the "green light to go ahead" on Saturday.

"On the day we did the interview round, and we were about to proceed to evening wear when the police turned up," he said.

"A sergeant came and didn't speak to any judges or the organiser, he only spoke to someone from hotel reception, he didn't even come in to look at the venue for inspection.

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"He said the pageant was 'not in the spirit of Covid, you need to stop or otherwise we'll fine you'. Once the organiser realised she tried to explain, but the sergeant dismissed it. He couldn't comprehend a pageant could be serious."

Dr Wong suspects a "grumpy photographer" who tried to enter the event and was turned away may have tipped off the police.

The pageant organiser spoke to police on the phone, and was allegedly told the pageant should "technically be allowed to go ahead" but the employee she spoke to did not have clearance to give them permission.

The organiser was told police would have a meeting to discuss the matter which could take up to 24 hours, but they decided to call off the event after two.

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  • Dr Wong said the reaction among the contestants when the pageant was cancelled was "very mixed".

    "Lots of them travelled from around the UK, they put up a bit of money for the hotel, paid for costumes – they're very disappointed. But some took it better than others."

    The pageant team is going to wait until February "when things are more clear" to continue the competition. Great Britain will need to have selected a representative by April in order to compete in the international pageant.

    "According to the contract we should have four months for our representative to be prepared, but now we only have a month and a half, if that," Dr Wong said.

    "It's quite unfair for Great Britain."

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    He believes the actions of the police were misogynistic as they targeted a women-led event.

    "I strongly believe this was discrimination against women. It would be very different if it was 20 men being interviewed for the job of football club manager."

    A Met Police spokesperson confirmed that officers were tipped off about the weekend's event.

    "Police were called at approximately 14:40hrs on Saturday, 19 December by a member of the public reporting an event that was an apparent breach of Covid regulations at a hotel in Bath Road, Hayes," they told the Daily Star.

    "Officers attended and spoke to hotel staff who stated this was a business event and therefore allowed under the regulations. After assessing the situation, officers deemed the event should be closed down and it was.

    "No fines were issued."

    Radisson Blu declined to comment when approached.

    • London
    • Coronavirus
    • MET Police

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