World can vote for new seven wonders

A GLOBAL competition to name the new seven wonders of the world has reached the penultimate stage, with a list of 77 candidates whittled down to 21 by a panel of international architects chaired by a former head of UNESCO.

More than 20 million people across the world voted for the initial list of wonders and the public is now being encouraged to vote for the final seven.

The Egyptian pyramids are the only surviving structures from the original seven architectural marvels. Long gone are 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, destroyed by fire or earthquakes.

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Candidates for the new list have been narrowed down to just 21, with those selected both obvious and not so. They include the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal and Peru's Machu Picchu. The seven winners will be announced 7 July in Lisbon.

Choosing world wonders has been a continuing fascination over the centuries. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) keeps updating its list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 830 places.

The "New Seven Wonders of the World" campaign was begun in 1999 by a Swiss adventurer, Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the globe.

Mr Weber "felt it is time for something new to bring the world together" and to "symbolise a common pride in the global cultural heritage", said Tia Viering, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

Mr 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.

Nominations were whittled down by public votes to 77 last year. Then a panel of architectural experts, featuring names such as Britain's Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando from Japan and Cesar Pelli from the United States and chaired by former UNESCO chief Federico Mayor, shortened the list to the finalists. Interest has grown as Mr Weber and his ten-member team visit the 21 sites. Their final visit will be on 6 March to New York's Statue of Liberty.

The original list of seven wonders was compiled in the 2nd century BC by Antipater of Sidon; it featured the Ishtar Gate, one of the entrances to the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon.

Another list of seven wonders appeared in around the 6th century AD, replacing the gate with the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

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But by the time it appeared, many of the sites had gone - and the existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon has never been proven.

Antipater's list was essentially a travel brochure for the ancient Greeks, and so showed places to which they could reasonably aspire to travel. It is notable in that it featured only man-made structures; places of natural beauty which are considered noteworthy these days being of much less interest to our ancestors.

• To vote, go to

The contenders

• Acropolis, Greece

• Alhambra, Spain

• Angkor, Cambodia

• Christ Redeemer Statue, Brazil

• Colosseum, Italy

• Easter Island, Chile

• Eiffel Tower, France

• Great Wall Of China

• Hagia Sophia, Turkey

• Kiyomizu Temple, Japan

• Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral, Russia

• Machu Picchu, Peru

• Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

• Petra, Jordan

• Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico

• Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

• Statue of Liberty, United States

• Stonehenge, England

• Sydney Opera House, Australia

• Taj Mahal, India

• Timbuktu, Mali

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