In the end, of course, it was little more than a popularity contest. By midnight on Friday, the number of people who had cast their ballots for the new seven wonders of the world had risen to 100 million. And in a glitzy presentation on Saturday in Lisbon, the winners were announced: the Great Wall of China, the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, Rome's Colosseum and India's Taj Mahal.
The announcements set off mini-celebrations around the world with Jordanians firing off fireworks in the capital Amman and revellers dancing into the early morning in Petra itself. Other impromptu parties took place at Chichen Itza, Rio de Janeiro and in Peru as locals celebrated their inclusion on the exclusive list of seven.
"Never before in history have so many people participated in a global decision," said actress Hilary Swank, who co-hosted the official event in Benfica Stadium in the Portuguese capital.
Yet despite the parties worldwide, not everybody was happy with the campaign, which was the brainchild of Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber. The Vatican was unhappy about the lack of Catholic cathedrals on the list of 21 finalists. The Church even gave voice last week to a suspicion that organizers had an "anti-Catholic bias."
Perhaps more surprising, UNESCO, the United Nations agency that protects some 850 sites around the world, weighed in with a criticism that the world's wonders shouldn't be determined by popular vote.
A statement on UNESCO's Web site reads: "There is no comparison between Mr. Weber's mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List.... This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public."
Nevertheless, the contest clearly struck a chord with people around the world. The number of those who ultimately cast their ballots by e-mail or text message represents well over half the entire population of the world in the 2nd century B.C. -- when ancient Greek observers compiled the original list.
Only one European site slipped into the top seven, a major shift from the ancient seven wonders, which were all huddled around the Mediterranean Sea. Three Latin American sites made the list, as did three from Asia.
The new seven wonders join the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the only surviving site from the ancient list. The pyramids were originally part of the voting, but were assured of retaining their status after angry officials in Cairo protested against the pyramids' having to compete.
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