Throwback Thursday: the New7Wonders of Nature vote

11/11/11 is an important date in the history of Table Mountain. It’s the day the landmark was announced as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on top of Table Mountain. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

It took millions of votes and several years to achieve this recognition. The New7Wonders of Nature campaign began back in 2007, when people from around the world could choose any natural wonder to be considered.

On 7 January 2009, Table Mountain was one of the 261 natural sites from over 150 countries that made it through to the second round of global voting.

The second phase kicked in, and it was a race to get placed in the top 77. From that list, a panel of experts narrowed it down to 28 finalists.

That’s when the third phase, and yet another round of voting, began.

Table Mountain ambassadors Kia Johnson and Liezel van der Westhuizen encouraging people to vote, vote, vote! (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

Finalists in the 2011 Miss Israel pageant paid a visit to the mountain and also cast their votes. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

Table Mountain was sitting in the bottom 14 out of 28 in February 2011, with most votes coming from outside the country.

However, in the last few months of the campaign, South Africans rallied to the cause and helped create a final wave of votes that put the mountain back in the running.

American actor Blair Underwood casts his vote for Table Mountain during a visit in 2011. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

WWE wrestler Justin Gabriel also offered a celebrity endorsement of Table Mountain. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

Forty-six thousand people visited the votefortablemountain.com website. Thousands more followed on social media. Votes started streaming in daily via SMS, Mxit and online.

A Lufthansa plane did a low flyover of Cape Town. Table Mountain ambassadors helped spread the word, and soon enough, media personalities, sports stars, comedians, musicians, bloggers, schoolchildren and politicians played their part in encouraging their fellow South Africans to vote.

Billboards popped up around Johannesburg and Cape Town during the final push for votes. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

The Springboks' Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira joined his teammates in encouraging fellow South Africans to vote. (Image: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway)

Then, on 11 November 2011, the top 14 finalists were announced in alphabetical order. The Amazon, Bu Tinah Island, the Dead Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeita Grotto, Jeju Island, Kilimanjaro, Komodo Island, the Masurian Lake District, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Sundarbans ... and Table Mountain!

It took another few tantalising hours before the final seven were announced. Crowds gathered at the V&A Waterfront and the announcement was shown on big-screen TVs. Table Mountain had made it!

Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille, former Cableway MD Sabine Lehmann and Vote for Table Mountain campaign manager Fiona Furey celebrate. (Image: Jurie Senekal)

And the crowd goes wild! (Image: Bruce Sutherland)

In total, 500-million votes were cast during the entire New7Wonders campaign. Five years down the line, Table Mountain’s status as one of the New7Wonders of Nature has helped grow local tourism, boosted our visitor numbers, and helped put Cape Town on the map globally.

In our next post about the fifth anniversary of joining the New7Wonders, we look at what happened between the November 2011 announcement and the official inauguration.

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