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Revamping Wonder

The Seven Wonders of the World: you hear about them and you know they exist, but do you know what they are? They\’ve been around as long as any of us can remember and serve as historical sites or objects that are in some way unique or unexplainable. They have found their way into history books and the itineraries of ambitious world travelers. But as time passes, can something as monumental as a “world wonder” be changed? Do people have this authority over significant landmarks? According to one man, the answer is yes.
“I started the project before the new millennium began, as a sort of \’millennium project.\’ But, of course, this kind of thing is the result of much thought over years. In 1999, I really took the first steps to make this dream a reality. I bought my first computer to start New7Wonders. The first Web site could be compared to starting one\’s company in one\’s garage – it cost about $700 Canadian!” [Wonder1]
The voice behind these words, and the idea of the new Seven World Wonders, is a man named Bernard Weber. But the Seven World Wonders have been around for eternity and, like most things ancient, that makes them practically written in stone. So what’s all this talk about a new collection of seven? One would think a list that has been dated back to the second century B.C. is irreplaceable.
This original list of the seven wonders was determined by Philon of Byzantium, a Greek scholar. This included Nebuchadnezzar, the Pyramids of Giza, the Temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum of Harlicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus, the Pharos at Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes – every one as mysterious as the last with a story behind it. However, over the years, the ancient wonders have been picked off one by one, along with the legends that go with them. Some modern scholars are even suspicious that the Nebuchadnezzar (more commonly known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) even existed. Of all those that are actually confirmed to grace the world, only the Pyramids of Giza remains intact today, which is a reason Weber insisted it was time to create a new list.
As of July 7, Weber’s organization, the New7Wonders Foundation, held a worldwide contest to determine the wonders of the modern world. The foundation was created in 2000, based on his idea to make a list decided by everyone in the world, not, as he told Newsweek on July 31, 2006, “decided by one single man.”
Not everyone took kindly to this idea of a new list of wonders. There was talk that the old list was the only one there should be. Permission granted or not, Weber set about his mission. The original list of contenders, comprised from votes of people around the world, was 200 suggestions long. “For a period of some five years, New7Wonders accepted nominations from people around the world, so we began with a completely democratic process. In late 2005, we had around 200 nominated monuments spread throughout the world. Since this is a simply unmanageable number, we first reduced the nominations to the (top) 77,” Weber said.
[folger]United Nations’ cultural organization (UNESCO) compared the new wonders election process to “American Idol.” They criticized the voting process, saying it was too free-reigned and instead suggested the nominees be chosen by professionals. Weber’s “democratic route” didn’t quite appeal to those in UNESCO. But that didn’t stop Weber. He went directly to the source of the problem by naming a former Director-General of UNESCO as the head of a committee working to narrow the list of nominees from 77 to 21 finalists.
The New7Wonders Panel of Experts was made up of renowned architects who “used their vast experience and their personal judgment to select the 21 finalist monuments based on criteria that included beauty, complexity, historical value, cultural relevance and architectural significance,” Weber said.
Still, many people remained dissatisfied with either the narrowing process or the election as a whole. “It’s silly,” said Catherine Semrau, a communicative sciences and disorders senior. “There should be a better way to determine the new wonders.”
As a peer adviser in the study abroad office on campus, Semrau believes the new list of wonders will have no affect on students’ choices about where they choose to go in the world. “I personally don’t think it would determine where I go. If I went to one of the places though…” She trailed off, put her hands out and shrugged as if to say she might check out a world wonder just to see what the fuss was about.
As the election process continued, problems began to arise. In April 2005, Egyptian officials demanded the Pyramids of Giza be pulled out of the race. They were outraged by the contest, saying the pyramids’ greatness should not be determined in a vote. “I can see where (the Egyptian officials) are coming from. Part of the attraction of the old (wonders) was because they were ancient,” said Alissa Folger, an international studies and Spanish senior. “Some of the new ones seem ridiculous.” [wonder2]
Weber defended himself, saying he only wanted to “protect humankind’s heritage across the globe” by holding the election. However, the Pyramids of Giza were removed from the running shortly after and given an “honorary status.”
Although the Pyramids of Giza were pulled from the race, they still received the increased attention experienced by the rest of the nominees. Promotions flew back and forth when the competition started and continue today for the victors. While Weber recognizes increased attention will be directed toward the new wonders, he also sees the election as the beginning of an ongoing project to more accurately document and preserve these places.
“As one of the first documentation projects, the New7Wonders Foundation plans to capture detailed photogrammetric 3-D images of the New 7 Wonders, which are scientifically exact, high-definition records that capture the entire monument. Hence, these New 7 Wonders will be preserved for the future, in scale and with every single detail. We will also work with the New 7 Wonders as a group to help them promote themselves – for example, with books, films, educational tools, et cetera,” Weber said.
Despite some of the general public’s objections, the new list was finally decided. More than 100 million people around the world cast their votes and made Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, the Great Wall of China, Christ Redeemer in Brazil, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Taj Mahal in India and the Roman Colosseum in Italy the new seven wonders of the world.
After 500 years, the Pyramids of Giza are no longer the sole remaining wonder of the world, with seven new wonders sharing the ranks. The revamped list was released for the world to see in Portugal, appropriately enough on July 7, 2007 (7-7-2007). The new wonder list was broadcast as “the modern version of the Seven Wonders of the World” instead of the “New Seven World Wonders” in efforts to prevent any controversy over the new wonders acting as replacements. However, many would argue there is still controversy surrounding the issue.
Countries let their opinions show when the new list went public. The Chinese State Broadcaster actually chose not to televise the event, and Chinese state heritage officials refused to endorse the competition. It was a different story for some of the other candidates. In Brazil, for example, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva encouraged voting for Rio de Janeiro’s mountaintop statue of Jesus Christ and was thrilled when Christ Redeemer made the list.
With the election over and the new sites decided, mixed feelings and questions remain. Does the new list violate history? Will increased fame diminish the integrity of the sites? What about the people who disagree with the election of new sites completely? [wonder3]
Weber gives us his take on some of these questions on his Web site: “Of course, this will not replace the list of the Ancient Wonders; they will always have a proud place in history. BUT this is not about the past, it is about NOW – about bringing this great concept into modern times, expanding it (the Ancient Wonders were all around the Mediterranean, the only world the Greeks knew at that time – we have such a more varied world to showcase!) and letting the people of the world decide. We have brought a wonderful ancient Greek concept, that of the Wonders of the World, into modern times – and used another wonderful Greek invention, democracy, to make it happen.”
Weighing in on the issue, biology sophomore Mala Jeganathasn said, “They should keep the old [wonders] because they’ve been around forever. They are bigger and better; each one has a story behind it.”
[weber]So what should we do? We, as college students, are part of the future. Should the modern list be honored, or should the original Seven World Wonders be hailed as the only true wonders? Out of 20 students on campus, all of them believed having wonders of the world was significant. Most had no idea that the new campaign took place and the ones that did, like Jeganathasn, felt strongly about the old wonders, whether they are still intact today or not. No matter which approach is taken, the modern seven wonders are here to stay, even though the ability to accurately name a “world wonder” is still up in the air.
If you didn’t get to play a part in this list, the New7Wonders Foundation is at it again! Only this time, the votes go to nominating the New7Wonders of Nature. Vote by logging on to www.natural7wonders.com

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