Sydney, Australia

The first call for the New7Wonders event day was planned for 4:30 in the morning! Luckily, this call was only for the Sydney Opera House staff and for the radio people who had sound checks for their stage and 6-9AM live coverage of our event.

Our call was for – slightly more bearable – 6:30AM!

A beautiful, deep blue and sunny morning broke and, with it, lots of media and cameras turned up. A first live interview was planned for 7AM with Channel 7’s “Sunrise” program. Just then, we had hired a skywriter to write “Wonder?” in the sky above SOH … do you wonder?, is it a wonder? or wonder what?! It definitely attracted the attention of the crowd present and probably many other people going to work.

A lot of laughs were had, surely not only in the forecourt of SOH but also in cars and kitchens and bathrooms, when a rival radio team ran down from their studio nearby to join the live radio remote at the event. They were all cracking jokes and, when the second team left (who were from a more “hip” station with younger listeners), they called out “see you in 20 years!” Theradio station on location then also called many of the other finalists, chatting to the people in the offices of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, making jokes with them and, of course, slightly poking fun at them. After they had interviewed Morris Iemma, the Premier of New South Wales, they joked “Thanks for coming in your Speedo (a tight bathing suit)” – although he was, of course, wearing a suit – but you can play around like that in radio!

SOH had invited the public at large for an early morning sausage sizzle, a “before-work party,” so to speak, with a giant Sydney Opera House-shaped lamington (a kind of a sponge cake covered with a sweet chocolate crust and topped with coconut slivers – the Australians love it). A very strange combination for an early-morning stomach – or at least, for my early-morning stomach and even later in the day … SOH is next to the large Ferry terminal called Circular Quai, which is busy, specially in the mornings and evenings, with ships taking people who live on the shores of the many arms of Sydney Harbour into the city to work and then home again. A very nice way to go to work … almost as romantic as life in Venice, I imagine.

After the official ceremony and hand-over of the New7Wonders candidate certificate to Mr. Iemma, the employees of SOH flipped big pieces of cardboard to make the slogan “OUR WONDER WONDER DOWN UNDER!” (I said that we had to add “… Put it on top!”). Simultaneously, the drag-queen heroines of the famous Australian movie “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (which is now running as a musical at SOH) came literally wearing Sydney Opera House! What a blast that was and it showed the ingenuity of this creative, artsy city. The whole event came together beautifully and gave the many cameras and photographers great photo opportunities. It was perfect, how the New7Wonders event became an inspiration and occasion to creatively celebrate a great contender, Sydney Opera House – the only candidate of the 21finalists built by people who are still alive today!

During the afternoon, after the event, I conducted one of the most touching interviews for our collection of what we call “vox pops” or casual interviews with “people on the street.” Steve, a Greek immigrant who started working as a construction worker building SOH with his own hands from 1968-1972, is now a very active, responsible maintenance man who confessed that he will probably die at SOH. He also got married, in Australia, at the same time he started working on the construction site of SOH, and admitted that the spectacular building is the second love of his life!

I found that Australia’s people have a unique way of combining serious commitment with a light, easy way of living and getting things done. Simply remarkable!