World welcomes 2014 with fireworks, festivities and a record attempt

2014-01-01 08:53

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Times Square erupted in joy and a shower of multi-coloured confetti as New York City's famed glass ball eased down to mark the final seconds ushering in 2014.

In the latest scene of global New Year celebrations an estimated one million people, braving freezing temperatures and some of them camping out since morning for a good spot at the festivities, joined in a chorus to boom out the final countdown to 2014.

None other than US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – a native New Yorker – activated the mechanism that sent the Big Apple's famed 5 500 kilo multicolor, flashy ball on its way down a pole to signal the end of one year and the start of another.

Times Square blazed with neon lights above the jubilant crowd, many wearing blue top hots advertising a brand of skin cream.

Parties in other cities further west were to follow.

Three astronauts from the International Space Station appeared on a giant screen TV to wish the crowd a happy new year.

The crowd withstood the sub-freezing cold thanks in part to lots of live entertainment including Melissa Etheridge singing a version of the John Lennon song "Imagine."

"It's really cold but there's a lot of entertainment. It's fun!," said Sara, a New Jersey woman who arrived at the square at seven in the morning to get a front row spot.

Elsewhere around the world, fireworks boomed and lit up the skies to welcome the new year.

Some 2.3 million thronged Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach for a raucous celebration about 24 tonnes of fireworks.

Europe joined in the party with a giant salvo in London, after Dubai attempted to break the work record for the biggest-ever fireworks show and Sydney got the ball rolling ahead of Asia with a dazzling display.

In London, huge cheers went up as parliament's clock tower chimed in 2014, as people packed the banks of the River Thames to watch the pyrotechnics at the London Eye observation wheel.

About 50 000 took part in "the world's first multi-sensory fireworks display", when peach snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles descended on a section of the crowd.

In Dubai, the Middle East hub was attempting to break the Guinness World Record by setting off more than 400 000 fireworks.

The glittering display lasted around six minutes and spanned 100 kilometres of the coast, focusing on the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower at 830 metres high.

People crowded in the streets below took pictures as the thundering display filled the skies.

"It's amazing," said May Hinnawi, a 35-year-old Syrian. "I will tell my children and grand children I was here to see this event."

Kuwait set the record in 2011 with an hour-long blast of 77 282 fireworks.

In Europe, Berliners partied at the Brandenburg Gate, while hundreds of thousands in Paris thronged the Champs Elysees.

"Paris is wonderful tonight," said Hu Lichu, a Chinese woman in her 60s who came with her husband.

Thousands of cheering Spaniards in Madrid saw in 2014 by gobbling down twelve grapes – one with each clock chime – in a New Year tradition.

One man was killed by fireworks in the Netherlands and another in France.

Kiribati and Samoa in the Pacific were the first to see in the New Year at 1000 GMT yesterday, in a wave of celebrations that will finish on the United States' remote Howland and Baker Islands at 1200 GMT today.

Sydney had the first of the world's major pyrotechnic shows, with seven tonnes of explosives lighting up Australia's biggest city.

Fireworks shot off the Opera House for the first time in more than 10 years in a show which attracted some 1.5 million people.

In Japan, millions visited local temples and shrines to greet the new year with contemplation and to pray for peace for relatives.

For areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, celebrations were muted.

In the ruined farming village of San Isidro, residents are still grappling with the overpowering stench of death as 1 400 corpses stacked in black body bags lay in a field, more than seven weeks after the tragedy.

Seoul rang the city's 15th-century bronze bell 33 times, reflecting the ancient custom for marking a new year.

In Indonesia's sharia stronghold of Banda Aceh, New Year's Eve celebrations were banned for the first time. Islamic police seized thousands of firecrackers and cardboard trumpets.

Mumbai revellers celebrated a court victory which pushed back closing time in bars and restaurants to 5:00am instead of 1:30am.

South Africa's top tourist drawcard Cape Town bid farewell to 2013 with a 3D video send-off of Nelson Mandela as the nation entered the new year without its beloved icon.

Mandela's face was briefly mapped onto the city hall in Cape Town where he gave his first freedom speech in 1990 after his release from 27 years in apartheid prison.

The tribute, featured a recording of Mandela calling for peace and friendship, was screened just before the countdown into midnight which was marked with a fireworks show.

It was part of a free party featuring singers and DJs on the public square opposite city hall where the crowd also replicated Mandela's trademark arm waving dance known as the "Madiba jive".

South Africa's first democractically elected leader died aged 95 on December 5, triggering a massive reaction at home and around the world.

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