New Seven Wonders vote draws to a close

The Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome and Peru’s Machu Picchu are leading contenders to be among the new seven wonders of the world, as a massive poll draws to a close.

The Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome and Peru’s Machu Picchu are leading contenders to be among the new seven wonders of the world, as a massive poll draws to a close.

Stonehenge is also in the 20-strong shortlist hoping to take one of the places.

Votes have been cast by more than 90 million people, organisers say. As the deadline of 1am tomorrow approaches, the rankings can still change.

Also in the top 10 are Greece’s Acropolis, Mexico’s Chichen Itza pyramid, the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island, Brazil’s Statue of Christ Redeemer, the Taj Mahal and Jordan’s Petra.

The winners will be announced tomorrow in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Great Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world, are assured of keeping their status in addition to the new wonders after indignant Egyptian officials said it was a disgrace they had to compete for a spot.

In the final round of 20 candidates for the world’s top architectural marvels, people from every country in the world have voted by internet or phone, says the nonprofit organisation conducting the balloting.

“It’s so exciting,” said Tia Viering, spokeswoman for the New 7 Wonders of the World campaign. “There are not many things that could bring the world together like global culture ... this is really something that every single person in the world can be interested in.

“This is all about bringing people together, to appreciate each other ... to celebrate diversity.”

The Colosseum, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, India’s Taj Mahal and Jordan’s Petra have been among the leaders since January, while the Acropolis and the Statue of Christ Redeemer made their way up from the middle of the field to the top level, according to latest tallies.

The United States’ Statue of Liberty and Australia’s Sydney Opera House have been sitting in the bottom 10 since the start.

Also in the bottom group are Cambodia’s Angkor, Spain’s Alhambra, Turkey’s Hagia Sophia, Japan’s Kiyomizu Temple, Russia’s Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral, Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, Britain’s Stonehenge and Mali’s Timbuktu.

The ancient city of Petra in southwestern Jordan – popularised by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and famous for its water tunnels and stone structures carved in the rock – jumped from the middle of the pack to the top seven in January.

That was largely thanks to campaigning by the Jordanian royal family and thousands of Jordanians voting by text message over their mobile phones, Viering said.

The campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.

The list of candidates was narrowed down to 21 by the start of 2006.

Since organisers started a tour to each site last September, the competition has been heating up.

There is no foolproof way to prevent people from voting more than once for their favourite wonder, but most of the votes are cast by internet in a system that registers each participant’s e-mail address to discourage people from voting twice, Viering said.

“We have a lot of kids (voting) and that trend is continuing ... but we have votes really from every part of the population,” she added.

The original list of wonders were concentrated in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos lighthouse off Alexandria are all gone.

After the Egyptian protest, the organisers of the campaign set the pyramids above the competition.

“We absolutely had no problem with this,” Viering said.

As of tomorrow, there will be eight world wonders including the Pyramids of Giza, she added.

Choosing world wonders has been a fascination over the centuries.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, keeps updating its list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 851 places. The agency, however, is not involved in the New 7 Wonders project.

Weber’s Switzerland-based foundation aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments. It relies on private donations and revenue from selling broadcasting rights.

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