Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez thought she had won the Miss Universe pageant.
But then the host Steve Harvey said he’d made a terrible mistake.
Okay, folks,” he said. “I have to apologize.”
Miss Colombia was the first runner-up, he said, holding up the card that contained the official results.
The real winner was Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who looked astonished by the sudden turn of events.
The almost unbelievable ending to the pageant was televised live in many countries, including on the Fox network in the United States on Sunday night.
Wurtzbach covered her mouth in shock when Harvey announced the correction. Then she walked out to the front of the stage and waited for Gutierrez to hand over the crown.
Harvey stood to the side, visibly embarrassed, while the crowd cheered. On the card he was holding, both the winner and first runner-up’s names were printed in small type.
Harvey took responsibility and called it a “horrible mistake.”
Pageant organizers also issued a statement in which they apologized to Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines, as well as their fans.
“Unfortunately, a live telecast means that human error can come into play,” the organizers said. “We witnessed that tonight when the wrong winner was initially announced.”
Social networking sites lit up with instant reaction. ESPN’s Darren Rovell called it “the worst mistake in TV awards show history.”
Harvey is a beloved comedian best known for hosting the game show “Family Feud” and daily talk shows on radio and TV.
Observers immediately pointed out that he has much more experience with taped shows than with live TV.
After the pageant snafu, he tweeted, “I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia & Miss Philippines for my huge mistake. I feel terrible.”
He followed up and said, “Secondly, I’d like to apologize to the viewers at that I disappointed as well. Again it was an honest mistake.”