Crowds Ring In 2012 In Times Square, Around World


2012-times-squareRevelers erupted in cheers amid a confetti-filled celebration in New York’s Times Square to welcome in the new year, part of star-studded celebrations and glittering fireworks displays around the world to usher in 2012.

From New Zealand to New York, the world eagerly welcomed a new secular year today and hoped for a better future, saying goodbye to a year of hurricanes, tsunamis and economic turmoil that many would rather forget.

In New York, hundreds of thousands gathered at the crossroads of the world to witness a crystal ball with more than 30,000 lights that descended at midnight. Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the crowd in the final-minute countdown of the famed crystal-paneled ball drop.

Revelers in Australia, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, which jumped across the international dateline to be first to celebrate, welcomed 2012 with booming pyrotechnic displays. Fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow’s Red Square, crowds on Paris’ Champs-Elysies boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight.

Some New York revelers, wearing party hats and “2012” glasses, began camping out Saturday morning, even as workers readied bags stuffed with hundreds of balloons and technicians put colored filters on klieg lights. The crowds cheered as workers lit the crystal-paneled ball that drops at midnight Saturday and put it through a test run, 400 feet above the street. The sphere, now decorated with 3,000 Waterford crystal triangles, has been dropping to mark the new year since 1907, long before television made it a U.S. tradition.

In Times Square, hundreds of thousands people crammed into spectator pens ringed by barricades, enjoying surprisingly warm weather for the Northeast. The National Weather Service said it was about 49 degrees in nearby Central Park – about 10 degrees warmer than the normal high temperature.

New York City always treats it like a big party – albeit one that now takes place under the watchful eye of a massive security force, including more than 1,500 police officers.

Dick Clark, who suffered a stroke in 2004, put in a few brief appearances mentioning that he has hosted his namesake New Year’s Eve celebration for years, but said “tonight, it’s better than ever.”

In Las Vegas, police shut down a four-mile section of the Strip to vehicle traffic six hours before midnight, letting revelers party in the street.

Atlanta welcomed thousands to its downtown, where a giant peach dropped at midnight. Fireworks were to be launched from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle.

The first worldwide celebrations started in the island nation of Samoa, which hopped across the international date line at midnight on Thursday, skipping Friday and moving instantly to Saturday.

Samoa and the neighboring nation of Tokelau lie near the dateline that zigzags vertically through the Pacific Ocean; both sets of islands decided to realign themselves this year from the Americas side of the line to the Asia side to be more in tune with key trading partners.

In Sydney, more than 1.5 million people watched the shimmering pyrotechnic display designed around the theme “Time to Dream.” In London, some 250,000 people gathered to listen to Big Ben chime at the stroke of midnight.

World leaders evoked 2011’s struggles in their New Year’s messages with some ambivalence.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Europe’s crisis is not finished and “that 2012 will be the year full of risks, but also of possibilities.”

In Brazil, heavy rains didn’t halt parties as upward of 2 million people gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and nearly as many on a main avenue in Sao Paulo, South America’s biggest city. Massive fireworks displays and top music acts graced stages across the nation.

{NY Post/ Newscenter}