As I wrote in Easter Island, there is an organization which has been taking votes for what should be considered the new seven wonders of the world.
Today they released the results of their voting.
Before I get to that however, let me take a few steps back…
Why are the number “seven” and “world wonders” linked together? It all goes back to a Greek tourism guide for the region. The oldest know reference is from Antipater of Sidon who wrote:
I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’
– Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58
Or to clarify, the ancient wonders were (and I know them by heart. I didn’t need Wikipedia for this part. If you know me in person, you probably wont doubt that claim):
- The Great Pyramid of Giza (You should be familiar with this)
- The Colossus of Rhodes (A big bronze statue near the harbor on the island of Rhodes)
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
- The Tomb of Maussollos at Halicarnassus (where the term mausoleum comes from)
- The Statue of Zeus on Mount Olympus
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (In Turkey)
- The Lighthouse at Alexandria (Stood quite a while. Was finally destroyed by an earthquake in the end of the 15th century)
So the original list was Greek centric and it has stuck in our collective imaginations all this time.
Now fast forward 2,500 years.
A Swiss guy by the name of Bernard Weber creates a company for the purpose of creating a new list of Seven Wonders of the World. This organization has no official government backing (not that it needs to) and has been taking “votes” since January 1, 2006.
If you are familiar with internet polls, you can see immediately what the problem here is. There was no limit to the number of votes you could cast. Moreover, the organization allowed for text voting just like on American Idol. All over the world locals get whipped up in a frenzy of faux patriotism and send in their text votes. He creates a “board of experts” to add legitimacy to the organization all the while selling t-shirts, organizing a pay per view event to announce the winners, and raking in money on text votes.
As a business, I think it was absolutely brilliant.
The nation of Egypt threw a stink (for reasons I’m not quite sure. They were upset they had to compete.) and the pyramids were taken off the list for the new wonders. I find it odd just because it was the one obvious choice that probably everyone could agree on.
So anyway, here are the winners announced a few minutes ago..
- The Great Wall (China)
- The City of Petra (Jordan )
- The Taj Mahal (India)
- Machu Picchhu (Peru)
- The Coliseum (Italy)
- Pyramid at Chichen Itza (Mexico)
- Statue of Christ Redeemer (Brazil)
I have no problem with first five I listed. The Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil shows the absurdity of the voting. Its a cool statue and it is an icon for Rio and the nation of Brazil, but it is any more “wondrous” than the Statue of Liberty? If someone builds a cooler, bigger statue, what then?
Consider what was left off the list:
- The Acropolis (Greece)
- Stonehenge (England)
- Easter Island
- Angor Wat (Cambodia)
- Vatican City
The Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera house were near the bottom of the list from the start (and with good reason). The only justification for them being so low and the Christ the Redeemer being on the list is a Brazilian vote campaign. I think given the make up of the 21 candidates on the list, there is an implicit assumption that the “wonders” are ancient, or at least old, structures. If you want new structures, I’d put the Strip in Las Vegas, the Panama Canal, the Chunnel and other engineering accomplishments on the list.
As for Chichen Itza, I really don’t know enough about it. I suppose I’m more sympathetic having seen Mel Gibsons Apolyptico, but that’s a pretty lame argument.
In the end, these lists are totally arbitrary, but fun. It’s like arguing for who should be in the Hall of Fame or who the greatest baseball player of all time was (Ted Williams, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds btw)
There certainly aren’t a lot of “wonders” here in the Pacific. Visiting the islands are more a study in culture and geology…..and of course leisure.