Posted on October 4, 2005

Mandela Wins BBC’s ‘Global Election’

BBC News, Sept. 30

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has topped a BBC poll to find the person most people would like to lead a fantasy world government.

More than 15,000 people worldwide took part in the interactive Power Play game, in which players were invited to choose a team of 11 to run the world from a list of around 100 of the most powerful leaders, thinkers and other high-profile people on the planet.

The second choice was former US President Bill Clinton.

The winning 11 were exclusively male, with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the highest-ranking woman at 13th. Hillary Clinton was the next most popular woman at 16th.

Entrepreneurs feature prominently in the selection. Microsoft head Bill Gates, Apple chief Steve Jobs, and Virgin boss Richard Branson all made the final 11, as did stock market billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

Players also placed emphasis on the need for financial probity — US Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan made the list at number five.

And two religious leaders, both associated with challenges to dominant authority, found a place in the winning line-up — the Dalai Lama in third and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in eighth. Pope Benedict XVI came 28th.

Politicians miss out

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the success of the American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, who came fourth. Another outspoken American, Michael Moore, was 15th.

Other placings included Osama bin Laden, at 70th, and Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who was 49th.


1 — Nelson Mandela

2 — Bill Clinton

3 — Dalai Lama

4 — Noam Chomsky (pictured)

5 — Alan Greenspan

6 — Bill Gates

7 — Steve Jobs

8 — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

9 — Richard Branson

10 — George Soros

11 — Kofi Annan

Serving politicians were generally absent from the winning list. British Prime Minister Tony Blair narrowly missed out, coming 12th.

US President George W Bush was placed 43, ranking below two of his fiercest adversaries on the world stage, Fidel Castro — 36th — and Hugo Chavez, 33rd.

And UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan just made the fantasy world elite in 11th place.

A range of sports and entertainment celebrities were on offer, but few ended up in the higher placings. U2 frontman Bono came in at 14th, while Pele was the highest scoring sportsman at 25th.

Footballer David Beckham limped in at number 72, with Kylie Minogue five places below him. Jennifer Lopez was almost at rock bottom in 92nd place.

The game — modelled on the hugely popular Fantasy Football — was run as part of the BBC’s Who Runs Your World season, which explores where power lies in the 21st century.

More than half of votes came from users in the United States.

Users were required to pick at least one each from a select list of leaders, thinkers and economists, and had a free choice of any other eight, including the option of selecting “wild cards” from areas such as sport, politics, arts and design.