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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 28, 2011
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Mazuria: Wonder of Nature
April 28, 2011   
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Poland is close to the finishing line of the 7 Wonders of Nature worldwide competition. Can the Mazurian Lake District become Poland’s global trademark?

The Mazurian Lake District in Poland is among the favorites in the 7 Wonders of Nature global poll. In the competition, up to the end of 2008 internet users from all over the world voted for one of 400 nominated places from 224 countries. Of these, 261 proposals made it to the second stage, and then 71 candidates qualified for the next one. A year later, a team of experts chaired by Federico Mayor, former UNESCO director-general, taking into account beauty, uniqueness, environmental considerations, the historical role and geographical location of unusual sites created by nature, chose the 28 most beautiful sites on the planet.

Among them is Poland’s Warmia-Mazuria; the region is competing for the title of one of seven natural wonders with such icons as the Grand Canyon in Colorado, Salto Angel (Angel Falls), the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives, the Amazon Rainforest, Galapagos and Iguazú Falls. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One of our local regions stands a chance of becoming one of the world’s unique sites of natural heritage.

The initiative was born in the mind of Swiss millionaire Bernard Weber who decided to revive the popularity of the seven wonders of the ancient world. He says that today no one remembers the famous buildings and works of art from the list drawn up in the 2nd century BC, so he set up the New7Wonders Foundation. The organization announced a global vote to select seven wonders of the world representing special artistic value and unusual technical solutions. The ranking list aroused a lot of national debate and patriotic inspiration and became an opportunity to promote local attractions. A hundred million people all over the world were motivated enough to take part in the online voting, counting on free advertising for local historical sites and thus an increase in the number of jobs and revenue from tourism.

At a grand gala in Lisbon in July 2007, broadcast by TV stations from 170 countries and attended by celebrities such as astronaut Neil Armstrong, tenor José Carreras, soccer player Ronaldo, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan and actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, the global internet community chose the new seven wonders of the world: the Great Wall of China, the Petra Temple, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Chichén-Itzá pyramid, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu.

The success of this novel project prompted Weber to suggest a new initiative, to choose the most magnificent sites created by nature. If we want to save the joy of admiring the unparalleled beauty of natural heritage for future generations, we first need to appreciate it ourselves, he argued. This competition is especially important to Polish people as it gives us a unique opportunity to present our country in a positive way around the world and draw attention to many particularly attractive sites. From the start of 2009 the Warmia-Mazuria Province Government has been running a promotional campaign in connection with this competition. The campaign slogan is Mazury Cud Natury (Mazuria a Wonder of Nature). This is a huge challenge and without effective assistance from local and national government it is hard to expect success. For some months now, people from Olsztyn have been trying to convince various decision-makers to provide some real support.

The competition isn’t sleeping. South Korea’s president Lee Myung-bak, who was able to awaken a sense of national pride and rally his people around the competition, has formed an alliance with the Canadian prime minister for joint voting, while Korea’s ex-prime minister Chung Un-chan has appealed to Chinese, Japanese and other Asian people for their support and votes. Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung has appealed to his nation, and the prime ministers of Bangladesh (Sheikh Hasina) and India (Manmohan Singh) are joining forces to vote for the same candidate. Four years ago, in the New 7 Wonders race, the Peruvian government gave top priority to promoting Machu Picchu while the president of Brazil promoted his country’s contender in a weekly radio program. The promotion of Petra around the world involved the Jordanian royal family as well as diplomats encouraging people to vote in other Arab countries. The profits weren’t long in coming: in the course of two years the number of tourists visiting Petra was 30 percent up, and to Machu Picchu 20 percent higher than in previous years.

There is still time to rectify earlier mistakes and focus the eyes of the world on Poland.

The Mazuria a Wonder of Nature campaign does have the honorary patronage of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, but the effects are barely visible. Senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz has declared his support. The best response to this mega-project has been from President Bronisław Komorowski, and I trust he will soon hold an official conference and help add impetus to activities aimed at getting people to vote. Enthusiastic support for the promotion campaign has been offered by many prominent people, including Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, Prof. Zbigniew Brzeziński, movie director Andrzej Wajda, astronaut Mirosław Hermaszewski, ex-presidents Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwa¶niewski. They are unanimous: We have no right to waste such an opportunity for increasing Poland’s popularity in the world. So, let us vote for our national treasure. You have until Nov. 11 to cast your vote for Mazuria (www.mazurycudnatury.org)!

Jacek Pałkiewicz
“Ambassador” of Mazuria to the worldwide competition by the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation to find the New 7 Wonders of Nature

Jacek Pałkiewicz is a member of the Royal Geographical Society in London, and an initiator of teaching survival skills in Europe. He has crossed the Atlantic on his own, trained astronauts and special forces in survival skills, and discovered the source of the Amazon. Author of numerous books. Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
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