Forget a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The place where the citizens of the world can really play with the big boys is actually within reach: a place on the new global Monopoly board.
The makers of Monopoly, Parker Brothers, are hoping to stir up world voting fever by launching a month-long competition for inclusion on the first ever World Monopoly board.
In a development reminiscent of Willy Wonka's competition in the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," many cities are already taking the bait, launching big campaigns to get their cities on the board.
The competition was launched on Tuesday in Times Square, New York, with Rachel Hunter, a model and former wife of Rod Stewart, among the first to cast a vote. She opted for Queenstown in her native New Zealand, as well as London and Sydney. Miss Universe Riyo Mori and Miss Teen USA Hilary Cruz also did the honors at the ceremony.
Voters can go to the Monopoly.com Web site and place up to 10 bids a day for different cities, choosing from a shortlist of 68, nominated by 2,000 travel writers. The 20 cities that get the most votes will automatically earn a spot on the board, with the number one in the ranking getting the most expensive spot, traditionally Mayfair in the UK version and Boardwalk in the United States.
Monopoly is the worlds most popular board game and it transcends cultural barriers, said Helen Martin, global brand leader at the toymaker Hasbro, which owns Parker Brothers, in a statement on Monday. More than 750 million people have played the game since it was first introduced nearly 75 years ago and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
While the world's top cities like Paris, London and New York are almost guaranteed one of the 22 places on the board, it is the contest at the lower end which is likely to be particularly hard fought.
In the Welsh capital Cardiff, Lord Mayor Gill Bird urged the Welsh to join the battle to get on the board. "Its now up to the people of Cardiff to get voting and make sure we are on the board and get the recognition we deserve," she said at a campaign launch on Tuesday.
However, with Cardiff ranked 48th on Wednesday, the people of the city had better get cracking if they want to "pass go" and make it on the board by the time the polls close on Feb. 29, 2008.
The Irish capital Dublin, on the other hand, may only have a population of just over 1 million but it looks like easily making the cut. On Wednesday it was already ranked 6th, just behind Rome and Sydney. Its good showing may be down to the support of the Irish diaspora, thought to be 30 million strong in the US alone.
The marketing potential of being included on the board has not escaped tourist authorities. Edinburgh, currently ranked 14th, is hoping to attract more visitors with the Monopoly midas touch. VisitScotland marketing manager Kathryn Macdonald told the BBC that it will give the already popular tourist destination a boost. "This is a fantastic opportunity for Scotland's capital city," she said on Tuesday, adding: "We encourage everyone to take the time to vote for their favorite city."
Two wildcard cities not on the short list will also be included, so citizens of other cities can also make a stab at getting on the board. The not-exactly-world-famous town of Volendam in the Netherlands is currently at the top of that list, so the field should be wide open.
Online bookmakers Paddy Power are already taking bets on which cities will come out on top and which will be sent directly to jail. Their categories include which cities make it on the board, the top American city and top European city and the highest rent position. A safe bet for that ranking would be New York at 2-1 odds, but the adventurous could place a bet on Jerusalem, Madrid and Dublin, with the attractive odds of 20-1.