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Acropolis, Easter Island, Taj Mahal among 20 candidates for new 7 wonders of the world

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Posted: July 5, 2007 3:29 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    GENEVA, Switzerland — 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 with votes already cast by more than 90 million people, organizers say.
    As the 8 p.m. EDT Friday voting deadline approaches, the rankings can still change. Also in the top 10 are the Acropolis in Greece, Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Easter Island, Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Taj Mahal in India and Jordan’s ancient city of Petra.
    The winners will be announced on Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal.
    The Great Pyramids of Giza are the only surviving structures from the traditional list of seven wonders of the ancient world. That list was derived from lists of marvels compiled by ancient Greek observers, the best known being Antipater of Sidon, a writer in the 2nd century B.C.
    The pyramids have been assured of keeping their status in addition to the new seven wonders after indignant Egyptian officials said it was a disgrace they had to compete for a spot.
    The final round of the competition narrowed the field to 20 candidates, and people from every country in the world voted by Internet or phone, said the group organizing the ballot.
    ‘‘It’s so exciting,’’ said Tia B. 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,’’ Viering said.
    The Colosseum, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal and Petra have been among the leaders since January, while the Acropolis and Christ the Redeemer statue made their way up from the middle of the field to the top level, according to latest tallies.
    The Statue of Liberty and Sydney Opera House have been sitting in the bottom 10 since the start. Also faring poorly are Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, Russia’s Kremlin building and St. Basil’s Cathedral, Britain’s Stonehenge and the city of Timbuktu in Mali.
    The ancient city of Petra in southwestern Jordan — 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.
    A surge in voting from the United States, Canada and Europe in recent weeks helped those regions catch up with Latin America and Asia to make the ballot truly global, Viering said.
    The campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations from around the world. The list of candidates was narrowed down to 21 by the start of 2006, then Giza was taken out of the running when it was given an automatic spot. Since organizers 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 favorite 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. Six of them no longer exist: 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.
    After the Egyptian protest, the organizers of the campaign set the pyramids above the competition.
    ‘‘We absolutely had no problem with this,’’ Viering said. As of Saturday, there will be eight world wonders including the Pyramids of Giza, she said.
    Choosing world wonders has been a fascination over the centuries. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 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.
    ———
    On the Net:
    http://www.new7wonders.com

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