The World Bids 2010 Farewell

2 Jan

NEW YORK: About a million people crammed Saturday into New York's Times Square to greet 2011 in a global New Year's party featuring spectacular fireworks but marred by bloodshed in Africa.

Celebrations kicked off in the Pacific and continued in a non-stop, globe-girdling chain of street parties and fireworks.

Times Square was one of the last big bashes, following joyful gatherings at world landmarks including the London Eye, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the Champs-Elysees in Paris and Red Square in Moscow.

New York crowds, monitored by a heavy police presence, watched the famous slow drop of a six ton ball comprising 32,256 LED lights and 2,688 Waterford crystals to signal the end of 2010 and start of the new year.

Worldwide parties began in the Pacific Ocean and spread across Oceania, Asia and the Middle East before the clocks turned midnight across Europe from Moscow to Reykjavik, and then across the Atlantic to the Americas.

But the party mood was spoiled in Africa.

In the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, at least seven people died and 24 were injured in an attack on a church as worshippers left a service at around half an hour after midnight. Witnesses reported a burnt-out car outside.

And in Nigeria a bomb killed four and wounded 12 at a market inside the Abacha military barracks in Abuja, a popular spot for food and drink in the Nigerian capital on New Year's Eve.

There was also a sour note in Russia, where President Dmitry Medvedev promised an “open and friendly” country, but police marked the night by arresting some 120 Kremlin opponents at rallies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

In Europe, the London Eye wheel was lit up by a colourful firework salvo as an expected 250,000 people lined the River Thames embankments.

Meanwhile at Edinburgh's traditional Hogmanay street party, tens of thousands linked arms to sing “Auld Lang Syne” as fireworks exploded above the city castle.

In Paris, an estimated 235,000 people were on the Champs-Elysees with a further 35,000 around the Eiffel Tower.

In Madrid, thousands crammed Puerta del Sol square as green lights spelt out “Feliz 2011.”

Revellers followed Spanish tradition and ate 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock as it marked midnight, to ensure good luck in the coming year.

Nearly 700,000 people braved the freezing streets of Vienna with some taking a chartered jet to witness the palatial city celebrate from above.

In the Middle East, Dubai stole the show on the Arabian peninsula with an unprecedented spectacle at the world's tallest building.

The Burj Khalifa was the centre of attention with a spectacular laser, lights, fountains and fireworks show which marked the 828-metre (2,717-foot) tower's first anniversary.

Then the party in the Americas got off with Rio de Janeiro, which staged a music and fireworks spectacular on the beach.

But honours for first party went to the 6,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, while New Zealand's Auckland was the first to party with a major fireworks extravaganza.

Australia then rung in 2011 with a fiery waterfall plunging from Sydney's landmark Harbor Bridge as seven tons of fireworks ignited in the night sky, thrilling 1.5 million people crammed on the city's foreshore.

Party-goers began descending on Sydney harbor more than 12 hours in advance, with new arrivals turned away as early as 3:00 pm.

In Asia hundreds of thousands of people gathered to watch a glittering fireworks-and-laser display along neon-lit Hong Kong's harbour. Dozens of boats also moored in Victoria Harbor for the intense five-minute display.

In Japan millions of people visited Shinto shrines to “purify” themselves.

Although Lunar New Year is a much bigger event in the continent, thousands braved Beijing's cold for the countdown at an up-market shopping centre, while an expected 7,000 people saw a kite-flying event in central Shanghai.

In Myanmar, democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, released this year after more than seven years of house arrest, called for the country's people “to struggle together with new strengths, new force and new words in the auspicious New Year”.

Revellers in India's financial and entertainment capital Mumbai — scene of a 2008 attack that killed 166 people — were given the go-ahead to party through the night despite intelligence about a possible militant strike.

Police were on high alert for attacks in major cities in Pakistan, where New Year celebrations are traditionally quiet, private affairs.

-AFP/wk

Channel News Asia

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