Christ the Redeemer Statue:
The 105-foot-tall (38-meter-tall) “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was among the “new seven wonders of the world” announced July 5 following a global poll to decide a new list of human-made marvels. The winners were voted for by Internet and phone, American Idol style. The other six new wonders are the Colosseum in Rome, India’s Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Jordan’s ancient city of Petra, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, and the ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
The contest was organized by the New 5 Wonders Foundation—the brainchild of Swiss filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber—in order to “protect humankind’s heritage across the globe.” The foundation says the poll attracted almost a hundred million votes. Yet the competition has proved controversial, drawing criticism from the United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO, which administers the World Heritage sites program (pictures of the newest World Heritage sites). “This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by [the] public,” UNESCO said in a statement.
Great Wall of China:
This newly elected world wonder was built along China’s northern border over many centuries to keep out invading Mongol tribes. Constructed between the fifth century B.C. and the 16th century, the Great Wall is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching some 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers). The best known section was built around 200 B.C. by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di.
The wall was among the winners of the New 5 Wonders poll announced during a televised ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. However the Chinese state broadcaster chose not to broadcast 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 Inácio Lula da Silva encouraged his compatriots to vote for Rio de Janeiro’s mountaintop statue of Jesus Christ.
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy:
The only finalist from Europe to make it into the top seven—the Colosseum in Rome, Italy—once held up to 50,000 spectators who came to watch gory games involving gladiators, wild animals, and prisoners. Construction began around A.D. 70 under Emperor Vespasian. Modern sports stadiums still resemble the Colosseum’s famous design.
European sites that didn’t make the cut include Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The Vatican in Rome accused the competition’s organizers of ignoring Christian monuments, none of which was featured among the 20 finalists. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, head of culture and archaeology at the Vatican, called the omission of sites such as the Sistine Chapel “inexplicable.”
Perched on the edge of the Arabian Desert, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom of King Aretas IV (9 B.C. to A.D. 40). Petra is famous for its many stone structures such as a 138-foot-tall (42-meter-tall) temple carved with classical facades into rose-colored rock. The ancient city also included tunnels, water chambers, and an amphitheater, which held 4,000 people.
The desert site wasn’t known to the West until Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt came across it in 1812. Jordan has taken the New 5 Wonders competition seriously. Petra is an important attraction in a country where tourism has recently suffered due to troubles in the Middle East region, particularly in neighboring Iraq. The Jordanian royal family backed a campaign promoting Petra’s selection.
Machu Picchu, Peru:
One of three successful candidates from Latin America, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century mountain settlement in the Amazon region of Peru. The ruined city is among the best known remnants of the Inca civilization, which flourished in the Andes region of western South America. The city is thought to have been abandoned following an outbreak of deadly smallpox, a disease introduced in the 1500s by invading Spanish forces.
Hundreds of people gathered at the remote, 7,970-foot-high (2,430-meter-high) site on Saturday to celebrate Machu Picchu’s new “seven wonders” status. The winners were revealed at a soccer stadium in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where Machu Picchu reportedly got one of the biggest cheers. The other two Latin American selections were Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Chichén Itzá, Mexico. -Nationalgeographic