Friday, January 1, 2010

Festivities across the World to welcome in New Year

Updated on : Friday, January 01, 2010

CANBERRA: Fireworks exploded over Sydney harbour bridge and the Eiffel Tower prepared for its own coloured-light spectacle as the world celebrated a New Year that many hope will be more prosperous and peaceful than 2009.

Revellers across the globe at least temporarily shelved worries about their future prospects to bid farewell to the first decade of the 21st century.

The financial downturn hit hard in 2009, sending many industrial economies into recession, tossing millions out of work and out of their homes, as foreclosures rose dramatically in some countries.

Germany's leader warned her people that the start of the new decade will not herald immediate relief from the global economic ills. South Africa's president was more ebullient, saying the World Cup is set to make 2010 the country's most important year since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Other leaders focused on the positive aspects of 2009. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said 2009 had been an extraordinary year for the world -- citing the inauguration of the United States' first black president and international attempts to grapple with climate change and the global financial crisis.

"The great message from 2009 is that because we've been all in this together, we've all worked together," he said in a New Year's message.

Australia got the festivities rolling, with Sydney draping its skies with explosive bursts of crimson, purple and blue to the delight of more than a million watchers.

The environmental concerns that accompanied the UN summit in Copenhagen were on the minds of some as the year ended. Venice was set to ring in the New Year with wet feet as high tide was to peak just before midnight to flood low-lying parts of the city -- including St Mark's Square.

The last year also offered its reminders of the decade's fight against terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently, rising militant violence in Pakistan. The American Embassy in Indonesia warned of a possible terrorist attack on the resort island of Bali on New Year's Eve.

Some festivities went awry. In the Philippines, hundreds of people were injured by fireworks and celebratory gunfire during the celebrations. Many Filipinos, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, believe that noisy New Year's celebrations drive away evil and misfortune -- but some carry that belief to extremes.

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