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7 New Wonders of the World Named
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The Great Wall of China, along with six other places of interest, was further immortalized by being named as part of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" on July 7 at a grand show in Lisbon, Portugal. Over 90 million people cast their votes for the iconic monuments in an international poll launched by a Swiss adventurer in 2001.

The new Seven Wonders of the World are: The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Taj Mahal in India.

Portugal put on a wondrous event to showcase the new wonders at Lisbon's Benfica stadium, inviting several international celebrities such as the New7Wonders Panel of Experts as well as former UNESCO Director-General. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, US singers Jennifer Lopez and Chaka Khan, Portugese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, Indian actress Bipasha Basu, Spanish tenor José Carreras, Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes, US actress Hilary Swank, British actor Ben Kingsley and former US astronaut Neil Armstrong to perform or present the awards.

Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber set up the "New Seven World Wonders" contest in 2001 to allow the world a chance "to review how major world civilizations grew, and to appreciate its collective cultural heritage". 

New7Wonders Foundation President and Founder Bernard Weber and Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, unveiled plaques for all finalists, at a gala orchestrated by Olympic ceremony veteran Jacques Lemay. 

Bernard Weber noted that, "The people of the world have created global memory–7 placed that everyone will remember."

The original "Seven Wonders of the World" were said to be chosen by the Greek philosopher Herodotus of the Philon more than 2,000 years ago and all lay in the Mediterranean region. Today, six of the original seven have been swept away by the winds of time, namely the Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The only one to remain – the Great Pyramid at Giza – automatically retains its status alongside the new seven.

"The world will have eight wonders come July 8, one remaining wonder from the ancient world and seven new ones," Tia B. Viering, spokesperson for the New Seven Wonders campaign, said the day before the winners were announced.

However, the campaign to crown 7 new wonders has been dogged with controversy. The Egyptian government officially rebuked the campaign and called for a boycott of the poll while UNESCO distanced itself, saying it would unfairly reflect the opinions of a select few.  

The Great Wall of China was the first inductee announced by Neil Armstrong at the gala. Two months ago, rumors spread that the Great Wall might drop out of the top 7 due to a lack of publicity in China. However, organizers told that the China Great Wall Society held a press conference at the foot of Great Wall in late May and asked tourists and Chinese citizens alike to vote for the landmark. 

Other nominated candidates which did not make the final cut were the Acropolis in Athens, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Moais on Chile's Easter Island, Australia's Sydney Opera House, Cambodia's Angkor Wat, 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. However, all these will officially bear the titles of New 7 Wonders Finalists.

Bernard Weber said that his purpose was to promote cultural diversity by allowing people to realize the value of their heritage and to renew a desire to support, preserve and restore monuments. His foundation will use 50 percent of net revenue from the project to fund restoration efforts around the world, including rebuilding the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, which were tragically blown up by the Taliban in 2000. 

At the end of yesterday's ceremony, Weber announced the start of a new campaign to crown the seven natural wonders of the world.

The 7 New Wonders of the World are:

Click here to see the photos of the 7 New Wonders of the World

The Great Wall of China
The world's longest man-made structure, the wall snakes across northern China for around 6,400 kilometers and was first constructed to protect the northern borders of the Chinese empire from invaders. First built in the 5th century BC, it was added to by following dynasties up until the 16th century.

Lying in the Jordanian valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, the site of Petra is famed for its many red-hued buildings carved into the very rock. The Monastery, as the site's oldest structure, dates back to the first century BC, and was devoted to the Nabataean god, Obodas.

Christ the Redeemer
Overlooking the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Mt. Corcovado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer has become famed as one of the strongest symbols of Christianity. Standing 32 meters tall, it was commissioned in 1921 by the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

Machu Picchu
Nestled in the Peruvian mountains, the 600-year-old city of Machu Picchu has captured the imagination of the world since being brought to fame by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Lying at the heart of the former Incan Empire, Machu Picchu escaped detection and destruction from the Spanish conquistadors, allowing it to remain relatively well-preserved.

Chichen Itza
Built in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the site of Chichen Itza was an important economic and political center of the Maya civilization. Rising to prominence in around 600AD, Chichen Itza is characterized by its famous multi-tiered ziggurat.

The only European representative in the New Wonders, the Colosseum is perhaps the most poignant reminder of the former glory of the Roman Empire. Built in the center of the Italian capital, the amphitheatre was completed in 80AD and used for gladiatorial game and other public spectacles.

Taj Mahal
Considered one of the finest monuments to love in the world, the Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in 1648. Its shimmering white marble has entranced visitors for centuries while legend states that a slight fault in the curvature of its dome was made deliberately since Islamic faith states only Allah can create perfection on Earth.

( by Zhang Rui and Chris Dalby, July 8, 2007)

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