Extravagant firework displays lit up the skies from Sydney to New York in a global New Year’s party that saw millions set aside their world of worries to welcome the new year.
Turning the page on a year of financial turmoil in Europe and the US, uprisings across the Arab world, devastation in Japan and the dramatic killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout, revelers danced to pop stars, drank champagne and cheered out the final seconds of last year.
In New York, pop diva Lady Gaga and Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit the switch sending the city’s famous crystal ball on its countdown drop.
Confetti poured out over Times Square, where up to 1 million people had been expected, and multi-colored, star-burst fireworks erupted over Manhattan’s skyscrapers.
Earlier in Asia, Sydney and Hong Kong set the standard with glittering extravaganzas.
The mood was more somber in Tokyo, but Dubai led the way in the Middle East and, despite a financial crisis, Europe spared no expense on the pyrotechnics.
Across the Atlantic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, huge crowds of white-clad party-goers — Brazilians and foreign tourists — rang in the New Year on Copacabana beach, watching a spectacular “green” fireworks extravaganza.
Remote Pacific islands were the first to welcome in the New Year, including Samoa for the first time, having wiped Friday off its calendar by jumping west across the international dateline.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict said in his New Years address yesterday that humanity faces a decisive challenge — educating new generations in justice and peace in order to avoid the violent tragedies of the past.
Benedict, 84, marked his seventh New Year as pope by celebrating a Mass for several thousand people in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the day the Roman Catholic Church calls its annual World Day of Peace.
The pope said this year’s theme, “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace,” is a task for every generation following the two world wars and other conflicts since.
Educating the young “in knowledge of the truth, in fundamental values and virtues, is to look to the future with hope,” he said in his homily.