Taj Mahal among top 21 in wonders list

By ELIANE ENGELER and ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Geneva:
A global competition to name the New Wonders of the World is attracting widespread interest, with more than 20 million people voting so far in the poll conducted by Internet and telephone, organisers said.

The list of candidate has been whittled down to 21, and the winner will be announced on Sunday in Lisbon. The Egyptian pyramids at Giza are the only structures still remaining from the original list of seven architectural marvels put together by different observers of the ancient Mediterranean and the West Asia. 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.

Choosing world wonders has been a continuing fascination over the centuries. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or Unesco, keeps updating its list of world heritage sites, which now totals 830 properties. The New 7 Wonders of the World campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.

It is not connected to Unesco. 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 B. Viering, spokesperson for the campaign.

Weber's Zurich, Switzerlandbased foundation aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments. It relies on private donations and those from whomever is interested in supporting the cause, and revenue from selling broadcasting rights.

The number of nominations was pared down by Internet and telephone voting to 77 last year.

Then the campaign assembled a panel of architectural experts, chaired by the former Unesco chief Federico mayor, which shortened the list to the final 21. Interest has been growing this year as Weber and his 10-member team visited the 21 sites.

The final visit was to the Statue of Liberty in New York on March 6. Voting is allowed until July 6.

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