Spectacular fireworks and crowded parties were to ring in the New Year for revelers around the world, as billions marked the end of 2011 with noisy celebrations from Sydney to Stockholm.
From New York’s glittering Times Square, to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and Hong Kong’s jostling harbor, crowds gathered to usher in 2012 in a blaze of light, sound and music.
In Australia, more than 1.5 million people were expected to mass at vantage points along Sydney Harbour to watch a pyrotechnic spectacular that has the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as its focal point.
By early afternoon, thousands of revelers were already waiting in the summer heat for the 7 tonnes of explosives that were to light up the sky in the colourful midnight display attracting global attention.
“Every year we make sure our celebrations are bigger and better than the one before,” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
In London, crowds were to see in 2012 with fireworks bursting above the River Thames as Big Ben chimed out midnight in a display watched by more than 250,000 people on the riverbanks.
In Paris, tens of thousands were expected to gather on the illuminated Champs Elysees to mark the celebration known as la Fete de Saint-Sylvestre, while in Stockholm fireworks were to be seen across much of the city.
In Amsterdam, revelers were gearing up for the first “kiss” between two giant inflatable puppets representing a Dutch boy and girl, who were to “walk” toward each other as the seconds ticked down to 2012. At the stroke of midnight, the puppets were to kiss as fireworks explode in an event organizers hope would become a yearly tradition in the city.
In Rio de Janeiro, 2 million white-clad partygoers — Brazilians and foreign tourists — were expected to ring in the New Year on Copacabana beach, watching a spectacular “green” fireworks extravaganza.
More than 1 million revelers were expected to flock to New York’s Times Square where pop diva Lady Gaga and tenor Placido Domingo were among the star-studded lineup, where a crystal ball was to drop at the stroke of midnight.
In Japan, which is still suffering the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, families were gathering for trips to shrines to mark the New Year.
However, refugees from the nation’s nuclear crisis, which was triggered by the natural disasters, said they had little to celebrate after being relocated far from home and loved ones.
“I can’t say Happy New Year as I don’t feel happiness,” said Yuji Takahashi, one of about 1,000 nuclear refugees living in a 36-story Tokyo tower block. “New Year holidays were so enjoyable as my family and relatives got together to celebrate another year, but they have dispersed and now live separately since the nuclear accident.”
In the Philippines, where killer floods spawned by Tropical Storm Washi swept away whole villages in the country’s south, the normally festive New Year’s day was expected to be a somber occasion.