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March Madness for travel sites


With basketball's big spring tournament canceled, it was inevitable that someone would come up with a substitute contest, complete with brackets and quarter- and semi-final winners, only with famous attractions rather than teams.

The bizarre competition was organized by The Independent (UK), which staged it on Twitter, with the contestants arranged in four groups. In the final round, Machu Picchu and the Grand Canyon, an unlikely pair, tied for the title of World's Top Travel Icon.

In Group A, the Taj Mahal came out ahead of the Eiffel Tower, with scores of 41 and 34; together they knocked out the Sydney Harbor Bridge (23) and the London Eye (8). Group B had a more overwhelming result, with Machu Picchu at 40% leaving the Leaning Tower of Pisa (24), the Treasury at Petra (19) and Angkor Wat (17) in the dust.

Even more overwhelming, in Group C, was the Grand Canyon's 44% runaway ahead of Rio's Christ the Redeemer (24), the Acropolis (19) and Stonehenge (13). The most overwhelming first-round winner was Group D's Statue of Liberty at 53%, with second place going to the worst-place runner-up, Edinburgh Castle (21). Trailing the pack were Mount Kilimanjaro (18) and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at only 8 percent.

In a confusing set of quarter-finals, pitting leaders against runners-up, Taj Mahal beat Edinburgh Castle by a 2-1 margin, while the Statue of Liberty barely edged out the Eiffel Tower. As the Independent pointed out, both involved work by Gustave Eiffel.  Machu Picchu beat Christ 59-41, while the Grand Canyon (79) crushed the Leaning Tower's last hopes. (Sportswriting is fun, who knew?)

The semis saw the Grand Canyon push the Taj Mahal aside with a convincing 55-45 score, while Machu Picchu barely squeezed Liberty 52-48. In the final round, Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu tied, leaving Taj Mahal to edge out Liberty for third place.

And if that's not enough of the competitive nonsense, the paper also ran a contest for "World's Greatest Human Travel Icon," won by Michael Palin of Monty Python, by a wide margin over Thomas Cook, Marco Polo and the founder of Lonely Planet. Can't see how they missed Arthur Frommer!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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