CULTURE

Two Athens landmarks on new seven wonders list

People no longer need to dredge up the Seven Wonders of the World from distant parts of the memory, because very soon they are going to be replaced by new ones. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Statue of Olympian Zeus, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus are about to give up their place to another seven marvels of culture and architecture that will be selected from among 25 candidate monuments. This initiative is being headed by the New 7 Wonders society (www.new7wonders.com) in cooperation with the World Heritage Center of Unesco. The list of candidates is: the Great Wall of China, the Potala Palace in Tibet, the city of Timbuktu, the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Athens Acropolis, the Aachen Cathedral, Versailles Palace and parks, the Statue of Liberty, the statues of Easter island, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, the Inca city of Machu Picchu, Petra in Jordan, the Taj Mahal, the Old City of Sana’a, Hagia Sophia, Rome’s Colosseum, the Doges Palace in Venice, the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, the Eiffel Tower, Alhambra in Granada, Spain, the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Church of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angor Wat and, again for Greece, the Panathenaic Stadium. The New 7 Wonder society was started by Swiss-Canadian filmmaker, writer and pilot Bernard Weber, and its first event was the official nomination of the Sydney Opera House with a hot-air balloon landing in Sydney’s harbor just one week before the opening of the 2000 Olympics. The event was covered by CNN and major Australian and international networks. «A proper census of the achievements of mankind in the last 2,000 years has never really been done before,» explains Weber. «Of the seven known wonders of the world, only one, the Pyramids of Egypt, remain. The dawn of the new millennium provided a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to the world cultural heritage and to showcase the new seven wonders of the world.» The successor of Philon of Byzantium (200 BC) decided to revisit the original list and update it. «The original list of the seven wonders drawn by Philon was, in essence, the first tourist guide in history and that explains why the Acropolis was not included in it; simply because it was on the home turf,» explains Weber. The society will be celebrating the inclusion of the Acropolis on its list today by flying a hot-air balloon over the Acropolis and holding a public announcement of Greece’s two candidate monuments, followed by a reception. After the reception, children from the SOS village and society members will walk to Mitropoleos Square in Plaka and launch some 200 miniature balloons into the air, giving color to the Athenian sky. The concept behind the website is to «take the decision-making process out of the hands of an individual and place it into the hands of the world’s citizens,» via an open vote on the society’s website. «All Athenians and visitors are invited to the House of Switzerland (Ermeion, 15 Pandrossou Street, Plaka) to vote at the electronic polling station that will be placed there until the end of August,» says the society’s press announcement, adding that the results of the worldwide vote will be published on January 1, 2006. The location where the announcement will take place is also open to vote, with candidates being the Pyramids in Egypt, Tianamen Square, the Colosseum and Acropolis. The New 7 Wonders society also runs charitable projects whose aim is to preserve existing landmarks of the world cultural heritage, as well as protecting important areas of historical interest. MARIA KATSOUNAKI