New 7 wonders

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Introduction

On July 7, 2007, seven world-known sites were named the new Seven Wonders of the World, after a worldwide vote by telephone and Internet. “They are the Chichen Itza's El Castillo, the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer, Peru's Machu Picchu, and the Colosseum in Rome. The Pyramids of Giza received an honorary place on the list, as it is the last remaining monument of the original Seven Wonders of the World.”

How It Started

The idea for seven new wonders was from Bernard Weber, a Swiss adventurer and entrepreneur. The original seven wonders, which no longer exist, except for the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Weber decided to name a new seven. In 2001, Weber created the New Open World Foundation, more than 100 possible candidates were nominated. The Foundation then created one of the world's largest contests. Anyone can vote with the use of the internet or telephone. Originally, the plan was to have the contest end on Jan. 1, 2007, but it got decided to hold it off until July 7: 7/7/07.

Mexico: Promoting the World Wonder

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At first, many complained that Mexico's representatives were not taking the contest seriously. With only a couple of month left to go in the contest, everything changed. The Coca-Cola Company in Mexico distributed cans of soft drinks designed with a slogan «Vota por Chichen Itza.», half-million US dollars were payed by the governmentand the council of tourist in Mexico so that they make sure Chichen won. In addition, CPTM's image campaign promoting Mexico, almost $40 million of advertising seen around the world, asking people to vote for Chichen Itza. Telmex, the Mexican telephone monopoly, distributed countless phone cards with the slogan. And Pemex, the national gasoline monopoly, put up thousands of posters at the pumps promoting El Castillo. Mexico was not unusual in its efforts. Other countries were also promoting their sites. The government in Peru set up computers in public places so people can vote for the Inca city of Machu Picchu. In Chile President Michelle Bachelet called on his people to vote for the volcanic rock statues of Easter Island. In Brazil President Luiz Inácio da Silva used his weekly radio address to tell his people how to vote for Rio's famous statue of Christ the Redeemer.

In China the news agency told people to vote for the Great Wall. In India, there was a campaign to promote the vote for the Taj Mahal. In Jordan the royal family asked their subjects to vote for the city of Petra. Apparently the promotion efforts worked, for most of the above were named the new wonders. In Europe, the British newspaper tried to promote Stonehenge, but Europe was lagging in its promotional efforts even though five of the finalists could be found there: “the Acropolis in Athens, Greece; the Colosseum in Rome, Italy; the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; and the Alhambra in Spain”. Only the Colosseum was named - with almost no promotion.

Reaction of UNESCO

UNESCO, publicly separated itself from the worldwide campaign to name the new seven wonders of the world. «UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCO's World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning ‘The New 7 Wonders of the World, '» their statement said. UNESCO explained that its mandate is to identify and encourage preservation of sites of patrimony in the world. Not so the New7Wonders campaign. «Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough, » UNESCO wrote. «The list of the ‘7 New Wonders of the World' will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the Internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public. »

Other Criticism

Various warning voices and criticism could be also heard from conservationists and supporters of the world's heritage protection. In Mexico for instance the people in INAH, the federal agency that oversees the ruins of Chichen Itza, worried about the impact the designation as a world wonder would have on the ancient city. «Being named a world wonder will create an influx,» said Eduardo Perez de Heredia, the INAH director assigned to Chichen Itza. «It is going to oblige us to implement restrictions because there is a limit of 1.5 million visitors per year which cannot be passed. » He decried as «banal» that Coca-Cola advertises the New- 7Wonders campaign by putting the image of El Castillo, «sacred center of the Maya » on cans of soda. And yet, INAH also played along. Two months before the announcement, INAH had finished the restoration of El Castillo, cleaned all the giant building and replaced crumbling or failed mortar.

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On the day the winners were announced the New7Wonders campaign received permission from INAH to broadcast from Chichen Itza announcing the winners. Perez de Heredia called the New7Wonder campaign a “mediatic phenomenon that no one can restrain”. The cost to license the television broadcast was more than the Mexican officials were willing to pay. As a result, when Chichen Itza was announced as one of the winners, no one saw it on television. Instead, the Governor's wife announced Chichen Itza's selection by telephone. An estimated crowd of 8,000, lured by free admission to the archaeological zone, were on hand at Chichen to celebrate the ancient city's victory. There was a protest by fewer than 100 of the 800 vendors who invade the archaeological zone each day to sell handicrafts and trinkets.

World Wide Reach

While certainly a popularity contest, the campaign to name new wonders of the world was not a contest of elites. Most of the winners came from Third World nations. These Third World countries have the technology available and can participate in the election over the Internet and by telephone. The idea that someone from even the poorest country can communicate with almost anyone anywhere in the world is revolutionary. For the first time in the world's history the poorest from the poorest country can have the same power to communicate ideas as those from the richest nations. Another testament to how powerful the New7Wonders contest was is that none of the winners came from the so-called Western world, save for the Colosseum in Rome. And as the Los Angeles Times reported, the contest generated barely a ripple of interest in Italy, so the Colosseum won because others around the world voted for it. Notwithstanding all the technical and methodological faults of the campaign, the New Seven Wonders opened the door to the contests of the 21st century when the voice of even the weaker countries can be heard.

A revealing analysis of New 7 Wonders voting

The results of the world's first-ever global vote to determine the New 7 Wonders of the World were announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon, in the presence of 50,000 spectators. Now, after 7 years of campaigning, Bernard Weber, Founder and President of New7Wonders, shares his thoughts about what made this election so different and the results so special.

Who Voted the Most?

Bernard Weber's analysis of what he discovered when he took a closer look at the 100 million votes from all countries of the world, is astonishing. Everybody who observed the project well was interested in what was the most numerous group of voters. The answer is simple: children and young people voted in great numbers. Bernard Weber explains: «Children up to a certain age do not have a strong national sense of pride, so they were our most objective voters, they voted for what they genuinely liked best. «

Well-Connected and Full of Passion

Another significant fact was the number of voters that came from the so-called developing societies, where the role of the interactive media (phone and Internet) is different from the one in the western world. «It seems that people in developing societies use the Internet differently from us in the western, northern world of plenty. For them, it is the gateway to connect with the rest of the world. Our voting system proved to be well-balanced: Internet voting was the equalizing factor, while SMS and phone votes expressed the passion and strong feelings that people had for their favorite monument.» For Bernard Weber, the new list of 7 Wonders reflects quite accurately what economists predict as the upcoming economic and industrial regions in the world in the not-too-distant future: China, India and South America. And another surprise: a huge number of votes poured in supporting the African candidate Timbuktu, in Mali. «Had the organizers started campaigning just a month earlier, Timbuktu would have had a serious chance to be elected as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World!» More people from Korea and Japan voted for the Eiffel Tower than did people from France. Many children worldwide loved Neuschwanstein Castle, but the Germans didn't. The United States, whose inhabitants voted very passionately and in truly huge numbers, did not vote for their Statue of Liberty.

New 7 Wonders : one year after

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The New7Wonders Foundation with its world known search for the wonders of the modern world has certainly shifted the concept of surveys and opinion polls a step further. Tourism Review asked Tia B. Viering, the Foundation's Head of Communications, about their views of the contest one year after.

* TR: Can you identify any positive influence of the New- 7Wonders contest on the new wonders' tourism industry?

* Viering: First of all, the most important benefit that the New 7 Wonders of the World have experienced has been a rise of up to 40 % in tourism. This is huge! This allows countries to put sustainable tourism measures into place. Of course, using the «hook» of the Wonder, the country can also promote their culture, heritage and country as a whole-since they have people's attention already. It is also very important to give people in a country reasons to be proud of their home, and it is easy to be proud of something that has been recognized by the whole world as being very, very special! We are also working with the New 7 Wonders to organize Official Inaugurations that will, once again, have the eyes of the whole world on them. We are working on a New7Wonders Museum, in which they will be featured along with this milestone campaign, the first-ever global election. In the longer term, New7Wonders is also committed to creating detailed photogrammetric 3D 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. This is important, especially as we must remember that, of the Ancient 7 Wonders, only one remains (The Pyramids at Giza) and we have no real idea what the other ones even looked like. For the New7Wonders of Nature, which are being chosen now, we know that the campaign will raise awareness of the incredible variety and beauty of nature around us. As our slogan says, «If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it!» This is something that is very important-more awareness and more tourism income means that these natural treasures can be better preserved for future generations.

* TR: Do you see any negative consequences of winning the new wonder's status on tourism? If yes, how can they be prevented?

* Viering: A rise in interest in a country's natural or cultural heritage, both domestically and internationally, can only be extremely positive! Of course, an increase in visitors to important sites, be they natural or human-built, must be managed... but this is a challenge that offers great potential for creative and positive growth. The worst fate that can happen to anything, be it a culture, a monument or any other part of a nation's heritage, is to be forgotten and to slide into oblivion. Had the Ancient 7 Wonders of the World not been neglected, maybe they would still be there for us to treasure and appreciate today-but people near and far stopped caring about them and nobody minded when they fell into ruins. This is a tragedy and New7Wonders wants to increase the awareness of our common global heritage so this has less of a chance of happening today. Think of it this way: Having no visitors is a serious problem since there is then no money to take care of a national treasure... having more visitors offers the chance to optimize procedures, built better facilities, help the local population, clean up the region, etc. The more people who know about your culture and your country, the more reason your local population has to be proud of their heritage, to appreciate the beauty in our world's diversity. The challenge is to use increased interest and increased tourism traffic and revenues to benefit the entire country, to protect the country's cultural and natural heritage. This should be a very welcome challenge!

* TR: According to the N7W website «fifty percent of net revenue raised by the New7Wonders Project is to be used to fund monument documentation and conservation efforts worldwide». Was any amount already dedicated to some conservation project? Are there any specific plans to do so?

* Viering: The New7Wonders Foundation is a non-profit organization that hosted the first-ever global election despite huge challenges. N7W is, as you note, completely committed to supporting monument preservation and conservation. The first step toward preservation is to raise awareness for the cause and N7W has achieved this to an incredible extent! The first campaign took 7 years to be completed and, with a core team of less than 20 dedicated people, changed the world and showed how people around the world could join their voices and their enthusiasm for a positive cause! We are incredibly proud of this. New7Wonders invested more than €10 million in the first campaign and, thanks to the sale of broadcast rights to the Declaration of the New 7 Wonders of the World and other, smaller sources of revenue, N7W broke at the close of the campaign. We are extremely confident that money can be generated with such positive, future-oriented and peaceful initiatives-and when N7W does generate excess revenue (this is what profits are called in a non-profit organization), we will devote them to preserving and restoring monuments. The Bamiyan Buddha reconstruction project is a first example for N7W's activity and commitment: N7W, together with the ETH Technical University in Zurich, Switzerland, produced the only existing high-definition 3D model that can be used for any attempt to rebuild this monument. This is the only current restoration project.

* TR: With respect to the fierce criticism of the contest's methodology («weak objectivity») that appeared in the media do you plan any changes in the strategy of choosing the new wonders of nature?

* Viering: Harnessing the power and scope of modern communications technology is the fairest, and indeed the only, way to hold a global vote and to reach as many people as possible. The most important thing is that people think about our global culture, our natural world, as being something that we all share- this dialogue is incredibly important. The number of people with access to the Internet is growing every day and this is the way to reach the greatest number of people, to empower them to participate. The fact that we got over 100 million votes, many from the developing world, shows that there is a growing desire to interact with people around the world. Bottom line-the Ancient 7 Wonders of the World were chosen by one man. The UNESCO World Heritage sites, a long list of 851 sites, monuments, villages, etc. are chosen by 21 people. New7Wonders strongly believes that our global cultural and natural heritage belongs to the people. Culture and nature are, by definition, for and from the people, all people-not to be hijacked by historians or academics or bureaucrats who say that the «people» are not experts and only experts know what is of real value! These comments are valuable: «The poll itself is a wonder,» from Reuters and «Something new to bring the world together,» from AP.

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Conclusion and Recommendation

Some Potential Benefits and Costs can be brought to the Community From Tourism

1st on a social scale it Brings in outside dollars to support community facilities and services that otherwise might not be developed.

2nd it Encourages civic involvement and pride.

3rd it Provides cultural exchange between hosts and guests.

My Recommendation would be to encourage this campaign in order to promote different cultures throughout the world