December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2012: Celebrations around the world

LIVE: Fireworks as London marks the start of 2012

Revellers around the world are celebrating the end of 2011 and are seeing in 2012.

Sydney heralded the new year with a 15-minute multi-million dollar firework display at midnight (13:00 GMT).

In Dubai an extravagant pyrotechnic display lit up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, with fireworks spouting from the top floor.

Celebrations are now taking place in Europe, with large crowds on the streets in many cities.

Thousands of people gathered in Red Square in Moscow to witness a firework display at midnight, although alcohol was banned to prevent the festivities getting out of hand.

Heavy rain dampened the celebrations in the Turkish city of Istanbul, but the main square in the Ukrainian capital Kiev was illuminated with an array of colourful lights and fireworks.

The first places to celebrate were Samoa and Tokelau after they jumped across the international dateline.

Sydney fireworks display welcoming in 2012

As the clock struck midnight at the end of 29 December, the two South Pacific island nations fast-forwarded to 31 December, missing out on 30 December entirely.

Tourists and locals partied throughout Saturday as Samoa revelled in being the first country to ring in the new year, rather than the last.
Hopes and fears
In Tokyo, people released helium balloons in front of the Tokyo Tower at midnight with notes attached listing their hopes for 2012.

Many wished for a better year, following the earthquake and tsunami that brought devastation to the north-east of Japan in 2011.

"I hope it will be a year full of smiles. For those who are crying now, I hope they'll be smiling too," said 21-year-old Horie Soichiro.

Days after the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the authorities issued a New Year message urging people to back his son and successor, Kim Jong-un.

"The whole party, the entire army and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un unto death," it said.

A downbeat tone was reflected in the new year's message of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said 2012 would be more difficult than 2011, but hoped Europe's debt crisis would bring its member states closer.

In a televised message marking the start of an election year in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, issued a similar warning, but tried to remain upbeat.

"We have to be courageous and we have to be lucid. What is happening in the world announces that 2012 will be a year full of risks but also full of possibilities," he said.

Fireworks over Red Square in Moscow Russian revellers had to pass through security checks to join the festivities in Red Square

For his part, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who starts his second term on Sunday, said he hoped the new year would continue the move towards democracy that protesters had started during the so-called Arab Spring in 2011.

For the UK, meanwhile, New Year's Eve is just the start of a year of festivities that will include the Queen's diamond jubilee and the London Olympics.

In Brazil, revellers are set to enjoy a fireworks display on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

And hundreds of thousands will pack into New York's Times Square later for the ceremonial ball-dropping at midnight.
Musical medley
Sydney's firework spectacular had the theme "Time to Dream", which producer Aneurin Coffey said was about giving people a chance to put a bad year behind them.

An estimated million-strong crowd watched the pyrotechnics around Sydney Harbour Bridge, which were accompanied by a medley of wild animal sounds and pop music.

Some of the fireworks resembled waterfalls, rainbows and clouds - which Mr Coffey said was "because every cloud has a silver lining".

Bad weather prompted some New Zealand planners to cancel outdoor events, but a low-key fireworks display went ahead at Auckland's Sky Tower.

Heavy rain meant celebrations in Palmerston North, Mount Maunganui, Rotorua and on Wellington's waterfront were called off, the New Zealand Herald reported.

"We hate having to cancel events but especially for something like New Year's Eve," Wellington's events manager Lauren Fantham told the paper.

"We'd rather have people safe inside somewhere than catching colds from a cold wet southerly," she explained.

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