World heralds arrival of new year

 

Revellers burst into cheers amid a confetti-filled celebration in New York’s Times Square to welcome in the new year, part of star-studded celebrations and glittering fireworks displays around the world to usher in 2012.

From New Zealand to New York, the world eagerly welcomed a new year and hoped for a better future, saying goodbye to a year of hurricanes, tsunamis and economic turmoil that many would rather forget.

In Dublin, thousands of people attended an outdoor concert in College Green featuring Damien Dempsey, Dublin band the Coronas and a performance of Riverdance.

In New York, hundreds of thousands gathered at the crossroads of the world to witness a crystal ball with more than 30,000 lights descended at midnight. Lady Gaga and Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the crowd in the final-minute countdown of the famed crystal-panelled ball drop.

Revellers in Australia, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, which jumped across the international dateline to be first to celebrate, welcomed 2012 with booming pyrotechnic displays.

Fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow’s Red Square, crowds on Paris’ Champs-Elysees boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight.

The first worldwide celebrations started in the island nation of Samoa, which hopped across the international date line at midnight on Thursday, skipping Friday and moving instantly to Saturday.

Samoa and the neighbouring nation of Tokelau lie near the dateline that zigzags vertically through the Pacific Ocean; both sets of islands decided to realign themselves this year from the Americas side of the line to the Asia side to be more in tune with key trading partners.

In Sydney, more than 1.5 million people watched the shimmering pyrotechnic display designed around the theme Time to Dream. In London, some 250,000 people gathered to listen to Big Ben chime at the stroke of midnight.

World leaders evoked 2011’s struggles in their New Year’s messages with some ambivalence.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy warned Europe’s crisis is not finished and “that 2012 will be the year full of risks, but also of possibilities”.

Pope Benedict XVI marked the end of 2011 with prayers of thanks and said humanity awaits the new year with apprehension but also with hope for a better future. “We prepare to cross the threshold of 2012, remembering that the Lord watches over us and takes care of us,” Benedict said last night. “In him this evening we want to entrust the entire world. We put into his hands the tragedies of this world of ours, and we also offer him the hopes for a better future.”

In Brazil, heavy rains did not halt parties as upward of two million people gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and nearly as many on a main avenue in Sao Paulo, South America’s biggest city.

Brazil has seen healthy economic growth in recent years, as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Growth, however, has stalled in recent months, and Brazilian leaders are trying to stimulate the economy in the new year.

AP