A local production manager for this year’s Miss Universe competition in Eilat said the Israeli team tried to convince the show’s organizers to replace the contestants’ traditional swimsuits with sports gear.
“We suggested that instead of swimsuits they would go up [on stage] in sportswear,” Tali Eshkoli, one of the Israeli production managers, told Channel 12 news in an interview broadcast on Friday.
Eshkoli said the organizers didn’t accept the suggestion. “We failed with that,” she said.
“We know, as people in this competition do, that things need to change,” Asaf Blacher, another production manager, told the network.
“You will see on Monday that we will bring our change. Swimsuits on the stage — it won’t be the same as every year. It won’t be a parade of 80 girls shaking their bodies for show,” he said.
Many have criticized the competition for its objectification of women, and unusual rules, such as not allowing married, pregnant, or divorced women to compete.
“I don’t agree with those [rules],” Blacher told Channel 12.
He confirmed that divorced contestants were not allowed to participate, but didn’t directly address other restrictions.
Miss Universe 2021 will be held in Eilat with contestants from close to 80 nations — and broadcast live to more than 600 million viewers in 172 countries via the Fox network.
According to Eshkoli and Blacher, Miss Universe is the third most viewed annual television show in the world.
The specially constructed venue at the port of Eilat — imported from Portugal — is 16.5 meters (54 feet) tall and holds approximately 5,000 seats.
While the decision to host the 70th edition of the Miss Universe pageant in Israel has caused some political controversy — including the decision of South Africa to pull backing from its contestant — the competition has largely been overshadowed by the coronavirus.
While Israel opened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists on November 1, it shut them once again less than a month later over fears of the new Omicron coronavirus variant. Most of the contestants had already arrived in Israel, but those who had not were given special dispensation to fly into the country, angering many immigrants to Israel whose families remain blocked from entering.
Amy Spiro contributed to this report.