The Taj is one of the ‘new’ wonders of the world
|The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan and the Colosseum in Rome figure in the Swiss foundation list|
IT’S WONDERFUL: Celebration in full swing outside the Taj Mahal in Agra on Sunday. —
LISBON: Seven “new” wonders of the world, including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Colosseum in Rome, were chosen overnight by nearly 100 million Internet and phone voters, upsetting purists.
The other wonders named were the centuries-old pink ruins of Petra in Jordan, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, and the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico.
British actor Ben Kingsley and U.S. 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 filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber — in January, allowing voters to choose from 21 sites, short-listed out of 77 picked by a jury of renowned architects and the ex-UNESCO chief, Federico Mayor.
The short-listed sites included the Acropolis in Athens, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the statues on Easter Island, Britain’s Stonehenge, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples, the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Alhambra in Spain.
However, the U.N. cultural body that designates world heritage sites skipped the event. “The list of the seven new wonders will be the result of a private initiative, which cannot contribute in any significant or lasting way to the preservation of the elected sites,” the Paris-based UNESCO said in a statement last month.
The initiative seeks to recreate the popularity of the seven wonders of the world of antiquity, of which only the Pyramids of Egypt still remain.
Saturday’s ceremony was attended by a myriad of stars and celebrities, including the former astronaut Neil Armstrong, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates.
“It is the first time in history that all the citizens of the world have been able to vote and decide,” declared Diogo Freitas do Amaral, chairman of the organising committee.
In China, the televised event was not broadcast, leaving thousands of tourists at the Great Wall unaware of the new tag.
“As usual there are a lot of tourists today, but I don’t think they came here because the Great Wall was chosen as one of the seven wonders of the world,” Hu Yang, an official at the Badaling Great Wall near Beijing, told AFP by telephone. “There was no special activity to welcome this. ... All the same it is a great honour for all of China.”
Jordan, meanwhile, said the flow of tourists to Petra would spiral. Faruq Hadidi, Secretary-General of Jordan’s Tourism Ministry, said: “The result reflected the importance of the red-rose city as a cultural, tourist and archaeological site.”
Underlining that around 4,00,000 people visited Petra each year, he added: “We expect the figure to double.”
In Peru, hundreds gathered at 2,430 meters to greet the announcement that the ruins of Machu Picchu had made it on the new list. Thousands more cheered and hugged each other in Cusco, 70 km to the southeast of the ruins, after cafe and restaurant televisions beamed the result.
“The selection of Machu Picchu is an example of what Peruvians can achieve when we unite” as they did in voting in favour of “the new marvel,” Trade and Tourism Minister Mercedes Araoz told reporters after the announcement.
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.
“Chichen, Chichen, ra, ra, ra,” chanted a group of Mexicans in white flowing robes at the foot of the Kukulkan (The Castle), the central pyramid that dominates the ruins and was built during 967-987. The Mayan ruins attract more than one million tourists a year.
In Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of thousands of singing and dancing revellers broke into applause as they were told that the city’s landmark Christ the Redeemer statue was a new “wonder.”
The city of Taj led the celebrations on the monument of love being included in the list, with the Archaeological Survey of India terming it “a vindication of the marble marvel’s standing in the world. - Agencies.
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Criticism by UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a press release on June 20, 2007 reaffirmed that it has no link with the initiative, which it says would reflect "only the opinions of those with access to the internet".
A paragraph from the press release 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. The list of the 7 New Wonders of the World will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public."
Some in Egypt see it as competition to the status of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only surviving monument of the original Ancient Wonders. "This is probably a conspiracy against Egypt, its civilization and monuments," wrote editorialist Al-Sayed al-Naggar in a leading state-owned daily. Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni said the project was "absurd" and described its creator, Weber, as a man "concerned primarily with self-promotion". Nagib Amin, an Egyptian expert on World Heritage Sites, has pointed out that "in addition to the commercial aspect, the vote has no scientific basis."
After the complaints from Egypt, the pyramid was given special status and removed from the voting list. From the Web site: "The New7Wonders Foundation designates the Pyramids of Giza — the only remaining of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World — as an Honorary New7Wonders Candidate, and removed it from the voting."
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