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Seven Wonders Publicity Stunt Creates Worldwide Controversy

Countries celebrated or shared disappointment as the seven new wonders of the world were announced on July 7. The contest, the brainchild of Swiss filmmaker and adventurer, Bernard Webber, encouraged people from across the globe to vote for their favorite site from 21 options. Voting took place via voicemail, SMS, or email. Almost 100 million people participated.

The winners – China’s Great Wall, 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, – were announced with much fanfare from Lisbon’s Stadium of Light. The event was broadcast in more than 170 countries to approximately 1.6 billion viewers.

The year-long contest generated publicity and excitement for world heritage sites. However, it has not been without controversy.

According to Cambodian blogger Morn Vutha, regarding Angkor Wat’s loss, “I thought that the voting through Internet and telephone is not fair and just for least developed countries like Cambodia. Most of our Cambodian people have limit to access Internet nationwide like developing and developed countries.” Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure and was one of the finalists.

Oluniyi David Ajao, a blogger from Ghana wrote, “My question is simple. Where is Africa? It is unthinkable that no edifice/site in the entire African continent made it to the final 7.”

Further tainting results, organizers admitted having no control over the number of votes cast per person, and many suggest the occurrence of fraud.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) distanced itself from the event. Though invited to participate on several occasions, UNESCO declined. “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.”

New7Wonders, the Zurich-based organization sponsoring the event, claims to protect world heritage and promised to donate 50% of revenue to the winning sites. However, according to the Indian Express, New7Wonders is not following through on its promise. Spokesperson, Tia Viering commented, “We invested 10 million euros in the campaign for selecting the seven new wonders. We have just been able to break even.”

Only one of the original seven wonders remains, the Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramids were exempted from voting and designated as an honorary eighth new wonder after angry Egyptian officials refused to take part in the event.

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