From India’s Taj Mahal to Mexico’s Mayan ruins, suggestions for seven new Wonders of the World have flooded in from more than 60 million people in one of the biggest global polls ever conducted.
With just over two weeks to go until the result is announced, Tia Viering, spokeswoman for the Zurich-based New 7 Wonders campaign, said on Wednesday: “We have votes pouring in and are now one of the most popular Web sites in the world.”
National pride has played a role in the contest’s widespread popularity, she told Reuters.
Politicians have seized the opportunity to promote their national monuments in hopes of raising their country’s profile and boosting tourism.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was seen embracing Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue after using his weekly radio address to pass on instructions on how to vote for the landmark.
Students in some of China’s schools and universities have campaigned for the Great Wall while Jordan’s royal family has been lobbying for the rose-red desert city of Petra.
The government of Peru encouraged its people to vote for the ruined Inca city of Machu Picchu by setting up free computer terminals, while Coca-Cola cans in Mexico carry adverts calling on people to vote for the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
Mexico’s tourism board created a simulation of the Mayan ruins in the virtual world of Second Life, which has its own economy, currency, and more than 7 million registered users, to lobby for votes in the competition.
The leading sites so far included the Taj Mahal, the Coliseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the mysterious stone statues of Easter Island.
However, the contest has caused concern that excessive tourism may threaten sites in countries such as Peru, where the filming of a beer commercial several years ago damaged an Inca artifact in Machu Picchu.
“There are some groups that have expressed their concern about the contest but there is no such thing as bad publicity,” Viering said, adding that the worst fate for a historical landmark was that it should be forgotten.
The Pyramids of Giza are the only one of Seven Wonders of the ancient world still standing.
The organization conducting the poll was set up by Swiss-Canadian adventurer Bernard Weber. The results will be announced in Portugal’s Benfica Stadium of Light on July 7.