Betting on Miss Universe

We’ve written lots of serious stuff over the weekend; if you haven’t already seen it, scroll down. For now, I want to take time out to comment on a rather weird phenomenon: betting on beauty pageants. As regular readers know, the finale of the Miss Universe pageant is only a week away. Over the last few days, betting on the event has sprung up on a number of web sites. This one purports to summarize the current state of play.

Put aside, for a moment, the question of what would possess a person unrelated to any of the contestants to wager on a beauty pageant, and focus on the odds. It’s clear that this year’s event is wide open; the shortest odds are 10 to 1. And there is no clear favorite, as five or six contestants are bunched at the top. Miss Canada is one of the leaders:
But Miss Canada won last year, and a repeat is unlikely. Another favorite is Miss Switzerland, but I don’t buy it; click to enlarge:

Also tied at the top is Miss Bolivia, who, like Miss Canada, apparently benefits from her height, which doesn’t do much for me; click to enlarge:

Next in line is Miss Australia, the subject of a pre-pageant mini-scandal. She seems to be among the contest’s more likable personalities, but I very much doubt that she’ll win:
Which brings us to Miss Iceland, the most intriguing contestant so far. Her pre-pageant photos were borderline frumpy, but the What Not to Wear crew seem to have gotten ahold of her, and the pageant photos taken over the last few days are a huge improvement; click to enlarge:

My guess, for what it’s worth, is that none of the current front-runners will win. There are lots of strong candidates–Angola, Trinidad & Tobago, Nicaragua, and many more, all of whom can be viewed via the drop-down menu here. If I were going to bet–although I still haven’t figured out why anyone would do that–I’d probably stick with my original favorites, Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Sri Lanka; click to enlarge: