The future of a Miss Russia NZ pageant to be held in Auckland is uncertain following Alexandra Park’s withdrawal of its bid for a venue.
There have been calls for the July 30 event to be canceled since February, and its detractors were told on Thursday that Alexandra Park would no longer host the event.
“We very strongly support the Ukrainian community. Unfortunately the catering company involved took the booking last year before all the atrocities that are happening now. Once they figured out what the event was about, they immediately canceled it,” Alexandra Park Vice President and Acting General Manager Rod Croon said in an email to interested parties.
Croon confirmed Thing he would not host the event.
It is unclear if the event will be held at a different venue, but event details remain at eventfinda.co.nz and no updates have been posted to the Miss Russia NZ Facebook group.
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Russian-New Zealander Elena Nikiforova, who moved to New Zealand 20 years ago, has been the driving force behind calls to cancel the contest.
“In light of the war in Ukraine, any entertainment event promoting Russian state symbols and flags will be highly disrespectful, insensitive and offensive to the people of Ukraine, whose innocent civilians – including children – are murdered by the same army that carries these symbols,” Nikiforova said.
“I think holding such an event would be insulting to the Ukrainian community, damaging to the reputation of the Russian community and upsetting to the New Zealand community as a whole.”
Nikiforova wrote an open letter urging organizers, sponsors and Alexandra Park to withdraw their support for the competition.
By May 11, the letter had been signed by more than 510 people.
Nikiforova is particularly concerned about comments from Miss Russia NZ event organizer Olga Ovsyannikova, also a Russian-New Zealander.
Olga Ovsyannikova did not respond to requests for comment.
Ovsyannikova previously reportedly said she was “neutral” to the war. She reportedly said she believed Western media reports of the Ukraine invasion were misleading and wrong.
Acting as Mahi’s spokeswoman for Ukraine, Ukrainian-born Kate Turska said any pretense of neutrality in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a facade.
“Neutrality cannot exist in times like these – either you are for war or you are against it.”
Ovsyannikova had pledged to donate all proceeds from the competition to the Heart-to-Heart Foundation.
The foundation’s founder, Ksenia Trifonova, said the foundation “helps the least socially secure people in the war situation.” She had not been informed of a cancellation.
“I am very upset that there is a war in Ukraine. It’s a terrible situation. It’s not good for the peaceful way to have a conflict like this,” she said.