Internet users and cellphone texters have just changed the world.
Last Saturday, these guys – some 100 million of them (probably some of us here) — made history by naming the seven “new” wonders of the world. In the process, they apparently put the curtains on some centuries-old wonders into the dustbin of history, including the Giza pyramids of Egypt.
Peru’s spectacular Machu Picchu ruins of ancient Inca civilization — one of the new seven wonders of the world.
The “new” seven of the world as chosen in the global poll are (not according to ranks since there was no official ranking): the Great Wall of China, Rome’s Colosseum, India’s Taj Mahal, Jordan’s Petra, Peru’s Machu Picchu, Brazil’s Statue of Christ Redeemer and Mexico’s Chichen Itza pyramid (I’ll write more extensively about each of these sites in subsequent blogs here).
The seven beat out 14 other nominated landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island in the Pacific, the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis, Russia’s Kremlin and Australia’s Sydney Opera House.
Brazil’s towering Christ the Redeemer statue.
Egyptian officials immediately raised a howl of protest over the non-inclusion of the pyramids of Giza, the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world. This prompted the organizers of the event to assure the Egyptians that the status of the Giza pyramids would be retained in addition to the new seven new wonders.
Jordan’s majestic Petra monuments.
The campaign to name new wonders was launched in 1999 by the Swiss filmmaker and adventurer Bernard Weber. Almost 200 nominations came in, and the list was narrowed to the 21 most-voted by the start of 2006. Organizers admit there was no foolproof way to prevent people from voting more than once for their favorite.
Mexico’s ancient Chichen Itza pyramid.
The announcement of the new wonders was made at a soccer stadium in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, where some 50,000 people watched.
Many jeered when the Statue of Liberty was announced as one of the candidates.
The Taj Mahal of India
The Colosseum, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and Petra had been among the leading candidates since January, while the Statue of Christ Redeemer received a surge in votes more recently.
The Colosseum of Rome
The Statue of Liberty and Australia’s Sydney Opera House were near the bottom of the list from the start.
Also among the losing candidates were 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 Great Wall of China
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.
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, keeps a list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 851 monument. But the agency was not involved in Weber’s project.
The traditional seven wonders were concentrated in the Mediterranean and Middle East. 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 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 have all vanished.
British actor Ben Kingsley and US actress Hillary Swank hosted the celebrity-studded ceremony at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light, broadcast in more than 170 countries to an estimated 1.6 billion viewers.
A private Swiss foundation launched the contest — dreamed up by Weber — in January, allowing voters to choose from 21 sites short-listed out of 77 picked by a jury of renowned architects and ex-UNESCO chief Federico Mayor.
Saturday’s ceremony was attended by a myriad of stars and celebrities including former astronaut Neil Armstrong, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates.
In China, the televised event was not broadcast, leaving thousands of tourists at the Great Wall unaware of the new tag.
Indians handed out sweets and set off fireworks outside the Taj Mahal, a 17th century marble mausoleum built by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Jordan meanwhile said the flow of tourists to Petra would spiral.
In Peru, hundreds gathered at 7,970 feet to greet the announcement that the ruins of Machu Picchu had made it on the new list.
Thousands also cheered, waved flags and broke into Mayan dances at the archaeological ruins on Mexico’s Yucatan, when Chichen Itza became one of the seven “new” wonders of the world.
In Rio de Janeiro, which hosted one of the Live Earth concerts, hundreds of thousands of singing and dancing revelers broke into huge applause as they were told that the city’s landmark Christ the Redeemer statue was a new “wonder.”
Wait a minute, they forgot the biggest wonder of the world! Look into the mirror, you’ll find it. Not even the most gifted civilization could ever make that!