ZURICH (Reuters) - What are the greatest architectural achievements in history? Rome’s Colosseum? The Great Wall of China? The Pyramids of Giza?
That’s what millions of people are asking themselves as they vote in the largest global poll ever conducted, an attempt to recast ancient history by ranking the top architectural marvels as the “new” seven wonders of the world.
Besides the vast scale of the poll — itself a wonder — the new list may reveal what the wired voters in today’s global village view differently from the ancient Greeks, who laid out the original seven wonders more than two thousand years ago.
About 200,000 people are voting online or firing off mobile phone text messages every day, organizers estimate — and the final total of ballots cast before the result is announced on July 7 could top 100 million.
“This is the first ever global vote. It’s never been done before. Culture is one of the few things that would be relevant to a global vote,” said Tia Viering, spokeswoman for the Zurich-based New 7 Wonders campaign.
“It is going up quickly and we expect it to go up even more quickly. The faster it goes, the more people find out about it,” Viering said.
She said Europe was lagging in the voting, but there was lots of interest in the United States, China, India and Latin America.
The first list of the most impressive monuments of the ancient world was compiled by the Greeks and included sites around the Mediterranean such as the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The only wonder to have survived to the present day is the Pyramids of Giza, and that inspired Swiss-Canadian adventurer Bernard Weber, who decided the start of a new millennium was the right moment to find a consensus “on the last 2,000 years of human achievement.”
The number of votes probably make it the largest poll ever undertaken on a global basis, said pollster John Zogby, but that did not make it a scientific exercise.
“At the very least the pollster has to create some kind of sample. However that doesn’t reduce the fact that this is an interesting and intriguing project,” said Zogby, who runs polling organization Zogby International.
“It’s an awful lot of people, I can’t recall anything of this size.”
A genuine sample poll would have to take a representative cross-section of society by age, culture, sex and other demographics, while the Seven Wonders vote is open to anyone with an interest.
There is no mechanism to prevent people voting more than once, provided they have the desire to do so by setting up more than one Internet or mobile phone profile.
Each has to pick exactly seven sites, which Viering said should help prevent too much skewing in favor of local sites.
“All of that will cause the purists in my profession to pooh-pooh this, but it’s too damn interesting to be pure,” Zogby said.
The vote is, however, still unlikely to reach the totals of national elections in large democracies such as the United States, where 122 million people voted in 2004, India or Brazil.
The other four leading candidates for the new list are the Incan mountaintop city Machu Picchu in Peru, the rose-red desert city of Petra in Jordan, Easter Island’s mysterious statues and India’s Taj Mahal.
Further down the 21-entry shortlist — which in turn was whittled down from 77 by a panel of architectural experts — are the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Statue of Liberty in New York, Britain’s Stonehenge and Moscow’s Kremlin.
Weber and his team are traveling through the Americas on a tour of the short listed sites there, building up to the final announcement in July.
In most places they are given an enthusiastic reception, with candidates keen on the publicity and added tourist interest associated with the vote. That is even more the case at sites such as Petra, where tourist numbers have been affected by violence in nearby Iraq and Lebanon, Viering said.
The Egyptian authorities were none too pleased that the Pyramids were subject to a vote, arguing they should be included automatically.
There has been little in the way of lobbying, Viering said, and a recognition that the campaign is a small, non-profit organization.
“I think that they understood,” she said. “Every place we go becomes a favorite. Each of the monuments is so unique.”