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Millions have voted for 'new seven wonders'

More than 45 million people have voted so far in an Internet campaign to choose the seven 'new' wonders of the world out of the 21 shortlisted historical buildings.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Geneva
UPDATED ON MAY 21, 2007 07:46 PM IST

More than 45 million people have voted so far in an Internet campaign to choose the seven 'new' wonders of the world out of 21 shortlisted historical buildings or monuments, the organisers said on Monday.

The contest, aimed at raising global awareness about the world's shared cultural heritage, was set up by a Swiss filmmaker, curator and traveller Bernard Weber, following the destruction of Afghanistan's giant Buddha statues at Bamyan by the Taliban in 2001.

In the most recent count published on May 7, the top 10 were the Acropolis in Greece, the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Coliseum in Rome, the Eiffel tower in Paris, the Great Wall of China, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, Petra in Jordan, the statues on Easter Island, Britain's Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal in India.

The organisers say they are trying to get ordinary people to follow the spirit behind the ancient seven wonders selected by intellectuals in the Mediterranean and Middle East around 200 BC. Only one of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, still survives.

"This is something that is supposed to create global memory, really for the first time: Seven symbols of global unity, seven symbols of shared global heritage," said New7Wonders spokeswoman Tia Viering.

"If you appreciate someone else's culture it's a lot harder to go to war with them," she told media.

Viering said votes were coming in from all over the world.

"We get a really incredible amount of enthusiasm from places where people are not used to voting and deciding things on their own," she added. The competition closes on July 7 when the result is due to be announced in Lisbon.

Much of the internet and phone text message voting so far has also avoided national preferences, according to Viering.

Egypt's pyramids were granted the status of 'honorary' New7Wonders candidate -- and removed from voting -- after Egyptian authorities protested that their historical value could not be called into question.

Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass dismissed the contest as a "publicity stunt" even after the change earlier this year.

"I am against this subject totally. I cannot accept a Greek historian choosing the seven wonders of antiquity and have a tourist company choosing the new ones," he said.
But Viering defended the popular vote.

"It's a different concept to what the Egyptians are saying. We think that culture is a supremely bottom up concept," she explained.

The other shortlisted sites are the Angkor Wat temples in Thailand, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Kiyomizu Temple in Japan, the Kremlin and Red Square, Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany, New York's Statue of Liberty, the statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Sydney Opera House and the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali.

Originally, the venture was also aiming to raise funds for a project to reconstruct the larger, 55 metre-tall Bamyan Buddha, which is expected to cost up to 50 million dollars.

However, only small donations have come through, forcing the organisers to focus on helping to preserve the 21 sites.

The shortlist was chosen by panel of world renowned architects and ex-UNESCO chief Federico Mayor, in January 2006, out of 77 public nominations.

In a similar vein, the UN Education, Science and Cultural Organisation oversees the growing list of World Heritage sites, which now embraces 830 places of cultural or natural importance.

"The UNESCO world heritage is a very important list but I would challenge you to name say 20 of them. It's simply too many. It's not very alive in the hearts of people around the world," Viering commented.

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