World rings in 2012 in blaze of fireworks

2012-01-01 07:21

London - The world rang in the New Year on Sunday with a string of spectacular firework displays watched by millions, a moment to overlook what the global economic crisis might have in store in 2012.

Turning the page on 2011, a year which saw nations battered by the financial downturn, uprisings across the Arab world, devastation in Japan and the end of terror chief Osama bin Laden, revellers looked to the skies as they welcomed in the New Year.

Sydney and Hong Kong set the standard with glittering extravaganzas. The mood was more sombre in Tokyo but Dubai led the way in the Middle East and Europe spared no expense on the pyrotechnics.

New York

Hundreds of thousands of people crammed into New York's Times Square to bid farewell to the old year and watch Lady Gaga trigger the famous drop of a crystal ball marking the start of 2012.

A raucous crowd that New York police estimated at a million enjoyed unusually warm weather, screaming and cheering in front of a top-drawer line-up of entertainers.

Gaga, dressed in a huge silver mask and matching dress, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pressed the switch to send the glittering ball on its descent. Confetti poured over Times Square and elaborate fireworks lit up the sky over Manhattan.

Times Square has hosted the Big Apple's biggest party since 1904, with the ball drop starting in 1907. The fact that New Year's Day fell on a Sunday and relatively balmy temperatures for winter helped boost this year's turnout.

Thousands of police officers were deployed, along with bomb sniffing dogs, sharp-shooters and anti-terrorism units.


London hosts the 2012 Olympics and its firework display kicked off with a recording of the moment the capital learned it would host the Games.

An estimated 250 000 people lining the banks of the River Thames then saw the London Eye observation wheel explode into an 11-minute extravaganza, with firework rings in the Olympic colours launched into the sky.

Fireworks shot out of parliament's famous clock tower with each chime of the Big Ben bell.

Simon Masson, a 47-year-old property developer, told AFP: "Personally, I'd like good health and happiness for my family, and nationally, I'd like the British economy to pick up a little bit and for things to be a bit better in Great Britain."

Further north, an estimated 80 000 party-goers descended on Scotland's capital Edinburgh to attend its Hogmanay street party, erupting into a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne.


But in other European cities the eurozone crisis loomed large despite the pyrotechnics.

In a New Year's address, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano delivered a stark message calling on the nation to make sacrifices to "prevent the financial collapse of Italy".

In Madrid, many wanted to ignore their country's financial woes for the night, gathering in the Puerta del Sol - the square that became a focal point for the "indignant" protest movement.

"Today is a day to forget the crisis," said Luis Zorrilla, a 46-year-old teacher as he celebrated, adding that in the New Year state employees like him and his wife would have to "cope with a difficult situation".

In Berlin another spectacular display lit up the night sky with partying at the Brandenburg Gate while in Paris, some 360 000 people flocked to the Champs-Elysees.

In the heart of Vienna the New Year was rung in by the great bell of Saint Stephen's Cathedral, followed by the strains of the Blue Danube Waltz.

In Amsterdam, revellers watched the first "kiss" between two giant inflatable puppets representing a Dutch boy and girl, which "walked" towards each other as the seconds ticked down to 2012.

Across the Atlantic in Rio de Janeiro, two million white-clad party-goers - Brazilians and foreign tourists - were expected to ring in the New Year on Copacabana beach, watching a spectacular "green" fireworks extravaganza.

Sydney got the party started

While remote Pacific islands were the first to welcome in the New Year - including Samoa for the first time, having wiped Friday off the calendar by jumping west across the international dateline - Sydney really got the party started.

Its harbour exploded in a blaze of colour and light that drew more than 1.5m people to crowded foreshores and city landmarks.

Shapes of clouds and hearts floated above Australia's biggest city, while glittering lights cascaded off the Sydney Harbour Bridge and fireworks launched from barges and rooftops exploded overhead.

"Every year we make sure our celebrations are bigger and better than the one before," Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

Two hours later there were celebrations in Tokyo as balloons and fireworks filled the sky, with the Tokyo Tower turning blue.

Japan is still suffering the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a massive radiation leak from a nuclear power plant.

Evacuees 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 refugees living in a 36-storey Tokyo tower block.

It was then Hong Kong's turn, with the city's harbour lit up by a barrage of fireworks fired from several of its iconic buildings, delighting partygoers crammed on to the waterfront and in pleasure boats.


Russia's far eastern regions entered 2012 eight hours ahead of Moscow.

Thousands gathered in the capital's Red Square for another massive firework display that sent rockets 140 metres into the midnight sky.

But the sale of all alcohol was banned in a bid to prevent the streets getting out of hand.

And the mood was less festive in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.

"I expect that things will be worse next year, especially from the economic point of view. I fear that the next year is going to be very hard," said last-minute gift-shopper Galina Fedorchenko, 59.

As the clock moved through the timezones, celebrations in Dubai centred on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the world's tallest man-made structure, with a pyrotechnics display even more extravagant than 12 months ago.

- Send us your New Year's photos

  • Garth - 2012-01-01 07:55

    For all those that indulged in a bit of Aus-bashing yesterday, watch their display and weep. With an on-site audience of I, 5 million people and many millions more on television, it has to rate as the top `New Years' show for 2011/12. Their currency is stronger than the US$ and they are world leaders in many sports, to name but two attributes of that country of 20 million that is 6 times the size of SA; admittedly, not much of the land is arable, but they obviously do more with what they have, then we do. What is the basic difference between Australia and South Africa?

      ubhejane - 2012-01-01 08:31

      You said: "What is the basic difference between Australia and South Africa?" The fact that you are still here Garth and not there. If it is that wonderful, and yes it is, why punish yourself any longer? It has nothing to do with how wonderful Australia is, but everything to do with the attitude of the South Africans that live there and sit here and desire to be there.

      Nurse - 2012-01-01 09:12

      Buzz off

      Garth - 2012-01-01 10:08

      @uBu - wow, aren't you a contradiction of terms. 'If it is that wonderful, and yes it is . . .', `. . . nothing to do with how wonderful Australia is . . .'. Ibhubesi, ubhejane, impi - lion, black rhino, warrior, - what are you trying to say? And to get one thing straight polynomis, I have no desire to live in Aus, or anywhere else for that matter; born an African, always an African. But I do admire their achievements - and the answer, that surely even you could have come up with, is: the anc. And hey nursie, "Pffft!"

      ubhejane - 2012-01-01 10:26

      Garth I don't see ANYBODY on here defending the ANC. Just because I stand up for my country and people, which by default includes you, doesn't make me an ANC supporter.

      Garth - 2012-01-01 14:35

      Ah, ubu, ibu, impi - where did I mention anyone defending the anc? The chips on your shoulders have attracted birds which are now squawking in your ears. I repeat, for your benefit the question from Post 08h55: `What is the basic difference between Australia and South Africa?' To which you gave a typical vegetarian remark, to which I answered in Post 11h08: `. . . and the answer, that surely even you could have come up with, is: the anc.' Please excuse the facetiousness of that remark, which obviously escaped you, but I merely believed that an opponent of the anc would immediately realise what it is that is preventing South Africa from `being all that it can be'. Oh well . . . Stay away from the vegetables, I believe that they are off.

  • Larry - 2012-01-01 08:01

    Happy New year to you all. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Its what makes this forum interesting. May you all prosper. I look forward to crossing swords again in the coming year.

  • ubhejane - 2012-01-01 08:25

    Listen to them praising the fireworks, while the animals didn't know where to run. The birds outside my windows were flying around terrified. But the intelligent form of life on here praises fireworks!

      Ian - 2012-01-01 09:38

      100%, since i was little i have hated it, just a useless noise, my job on new years eve is keep pup safe thanks to irrespponsible morons

      ubhejane - 2012-01-01 09:40

      I did the same Ian. I put mine in the car at midnight and drove him to a place where he couldn't hear the crackers.

      sally.fryer1 - 2012-01-01 10:01

      YES!!! On our way home at 10.30 last night, we encountered an Airedale running through the streets, possibly lost/terrified. He/she was wet(?) and tried to jump through the car window, then proceeded to follow my car! Luckily the road in question was fairly quiet.

      david.lipschitz - 2012-01-01 10:06

      The Fireworks is a tiny taste of war. Animals and people (sometimes) survive war. If you can't handle the fireworks, then please do something about the bigger issues.

      Sue - 2012-01-01 10:15

      I agree with you ubhejane. Until 2 a.m. this morning in Jhb. The fireworks was huge, our animals distressed. So annoying. To all those who let off fireworks may your 2012 be a really hard one! No consideration whatsoever.

      ubhejane - 2012-01-01 10:20

      @David Lipschitz. You not going to help us with the big issues? Are they only my issues or are you posting from another country?

      david.lipschitz - 2012-01-01 13:07

      Dear Ubhejane. Yes, I am helping with the big issues. We deserve Freedom. See The real problem in South Africa isn't the Fireworks. It is actually the lack of Fireworks in our government (DA and ANC). South Africa has huge natural resources and a growing population, both needed for expansion, as is happening in China, India and the other BRICS countries, but not South Africa. The missing ingredient in South Africa is lack of electricity, besides government mis-spending. Millions of people have been given electricity in South Africa over the past two decades without building new power stations. You should consider how this was done, eg, by closing the textiles industry. We could have had both; a thriving textiles industry AND everyone having access to electricity. Look how many people are commenting on this page about the Fireworks. How many of them have lost jobs or not had salary increases for the past 3 years? How many of them have looked outside their houses and been involved in their residents associations and ward forums? How many of them have invested in renewable energy on their roofs and tried to do as much as possible to reduce their carbon and environmental footprint? My cat isn't scared of fireworks. He lives in a house with conscientious people who care very much about the environment and spend time and money helping.

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