As the world rang in 2013 with spectacular fireworks displays and showers of confetti, the specter of economic uncertainty and searing violence dimmed some festivities and weighed on the minds of revelers hoping for a better year.
Revelers with New Year’s hats and sunglasses boasting “2013” packed the streets in the 35-degree cold to count down the first ball drop in decades without Dick Clark, who died in April and was honored with his name printed on confetti and on one of the crystal panels on the Times Square ball.
Security in Times Square was tight, with a mass of uniformed police and plainclothes officers assigned to blend into the crowd. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly claimed that Times Square would be the “safest place in the world on New Year’s Eve,” and officers used barriers to prevent overcrowding and checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce an alcohol ban and check handbags.
Celebrations on the West Coast took place nearly 24 hours after lavish fireworks displays lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
In Myanmar, about 90,000 people gathered in a field to watch a countdown for the first time, according to organizers. The reformist government that took office in 2011 in the country, long under military rule, threw its first public New Year’s celebration in decades.
In the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai, multicolored fireworks danced up and down the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
In Russia, spectators filled Moscow’s Red Square as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin.
In London, the chimes of the clock inside the Big Ben tower counted down the final seconds of 2012 and fireworks dazzled the sky above Parliament Square.
But parts of Europe held scaled-back festivities and street parties, the mood was restrained – if hopeful – for a 2013 that is projected to be a sixth straight year of recession amid Greece’s worst economic crisis since World War II.
In Times Square, some revelers checked their cellphones for news of lawmakers’ tentative deal to skirt the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a combination of expiring tax cuts and spending cuts that threatened to reverberate globally. The U.S. Senate approved a bill to avert the cliff well after midnight, though a vote in the House is pending.
The recent elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the devastation from Superstorm Sandy also mingled amid the memories of 2012.
When the celebration was over sanitation workers swept through Times Square to clean up the mess.
By 6 a.m. it was hard to tell that one of the world’s biggest parties had just wrapped up.
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