WHAT MORE fascinating introduction to the delights of global travel could there be than a Miss World pageant?

Just for starters, take a look at the miraculous little country that is trying to adopt the event as its very own. The Seychelles, which has played host for the past two years, is the only country I know that looks like a figment of the imagination of an advertising executive or movie director. The flawless white beaches really are overhung by strategically located palm trees and it is hard to believe that those curvaceous lumps of pink granite were not bolted on last year by a Miss World pageant set designer.

Interestingly, the contestant from the Seychelles actually won a prize in last week's contest - that of "Miss Personality"- though one suspects that home advantage may have been a factor, especially given that the entire population of the Seychelles (all 70,000 of them) look like extras who have been drafted in to lend the contest greater realism.

Anyway, we all remember what happened the last time they tried to hold the competition in a country other than the Seychelles. Two years ago the threat of holding the contest in Bangalore, India, provoked violent demonstrations. The contest moved to the Seychelles, and I suggest it stays there.

What about the results? Last week's event saw no fewer than 86 entrants which represents a fair smattering of the 200-odd countries and dependent territories in the world.

It may not be as popular as the World Cup, which has well over a hundred participants but, then again, there are some footballing countries whose women you would not really expect to see playing frisbee or baseball on the beach - Saudi Arabia and Iran for example (though the idea of women presenting their talents from behind a discreet veil could have a future - after all, the competition is supposed to be about brains not looks these days). Anyway, the fact that Miss Israel won the event this time is unlikely to promote an explosion of interest in beauty contests in Riyadh or Tehran.

But while some countries are turning their backs on the event, others are on fire about it. In Venezuela, I am told, the entire nation comes to a standstill on pageant days. This Latin American obsession with beauty contests was reflected in the results of last week's contest, with Peru, Chile and Brazil all being placed in the top ten. Certainly my own recollection of Brazil is that this was a country where girls were encouraged to dress like miniature beauty queen contestants from pre-school age.

Of all the European entrants, Miss France did best - but still only managed second place. Does this mean that we should talk less about the beauty of French women in future and more about the brilliance of their footballers?