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Indians celebrate ‘new’ wonder Taj Mahal

Indians celebrate ‘new’ wonder Taj Mahal
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First Published: Sun, Jul 08 2007. 05 59 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Jul 08 2007. 05 59 PM IST
Agra: Indians handed out sweets and set off fireworks outside the Taj Mahal monument on 8 May to celebrate its inclusion in a list of “new” seven wonders and promised discounts to tourists.
The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan and Brazil’s statue of Christ the Redeemer are among the modern day seven wonders of the world chosen in a poll of 100 million online voters, organisers said on Saturday.
The other four are Peru’s Machu Picchu, the mountain settlement that symbolises the Inca empire, Mexico’s Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, the Colosseum in Rome and the Taj Mahal in India.
The seven winners were announced at a glitzy show at the Benfica stadium in Lisbon after what is likely to be the biggest online poll at www.new7wonders.com.
“Never before in history have so many people participated in a global decision,” actress Hilary Swank said at the presentation.
The ancient seven wonders of the world all existed more than 2,000 years ago and were all in the Mediterranean region. Only one remains standing today -- the Pyramids of Giza.
The originals were selected by one man, believed by many to be ancient Greek writer Antipater of Sidon. The New 7 Wonders of the World organisers say the contest was a chance to level the global cultural playing field and recognise the achievements of societies outside Europe and the Middle East.
Only one European site, the Colosseum, was picked. The Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis had also been contenders. “I am happy that for the first time in history the world was able to vote and decide,” said Jose Freitas do Amaral, commissioner of the New 7 Wonders of the World and Portugal’s former foreign minister.
Many Portuguese enjoying the glitzy presentation, which included break-dancing and singing by tenor Jose Carreras and pop star Jennifer Lopez, backed the choice of new wonders.
“I think this event is very important. It’s important to give a chance to other historical monuments,” said 60-year-old Ivone Caroca.
At Chichen Itza, in Rio de Janeiro and in Peru -- the three winners in Latin America -- people cheered, danced and applauded when their sites were selected.
“They asked me to tell you that the Christ is now a wonder,” lead singer of Brazilian band O Rappa, Marcelo Falcao, said in the middle of the Live Earth concert on Copacabana beach, prompting wild cheering and exchanges of hugs in the crowd.
At Chichen Itza, 26-year-old engineering student Alberto Jimenez jumped with joy together with hundreds of others. “This archaeological recognition is a great achievement for the whole country,” he said.
Critics, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), have said world wonders should not be chosen in a popular vote.
In the Lisbon audience, 62-year-old Antonio Catarino was upset because no Catholic cathedrals or churches were included.
“I find it unforgivable that there aren’t any in the voting,” he said.
The New 7 Wonders organisation, established by Swiss-Canadian adventurer Bernard Weber, will use half its revenues to fund restoration efforts worldwide, including recreating the Bamiyan Buddha statue in Afghanistan.
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First Published: Sun, Jul 08 2007. 05 59 PM IST