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World rings in 2012 as spectacular as ever

/ 01:25 AM January 01, 2012

SYDNEY—Spectacular fireworks and crowded parties will ring in the New Year for revelers around the world on Saturday, as billions mark the end of 2011 with noisy celebrations from Sydney to Stockholm.

From New York’s glittering Times Square, to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and Hong Kong’s jostling harbor, crowds will gather to usher in 2012 in a blaze of light, sound and music.

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In Australia, more than 1.5 million people are expected to mass at vantage points along Sydney Harbor to watch a pyrotechnic spectacular which has the arch of the Sydney Harbor Bridge as its focal point.

By early afternoon thousands of revelers were already waiting in the summer heat for the 7 tons of explosives which will light up the sky in the colorful midnight display which attracts global attention.

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

Olympic theme

In London crowds will see in 2012, the year it hosts the Olympic Games, with fireworks bursting above the River Thames as Big Ben chimes out midnight in a display watched by more than 250,000 people on the river banks.

In Paris, tens of thousands are expected to gather on the illuminated Champs Elysees to mark the celebration known as La Fete de Saint-Sylvestre while in Stockholm fireworks will be seen across much of the city.

In Amsterdam, revelers are gearing up for the first “kiss” between two giant inflatable puppets representing a Dutch boy and girl in traditional costume which will “walk” towards each other as the seconds tick down to 2012.

At the stroke of midnight, the puppets will kiss as fireworks explode in an event organizers hope will become a yearly tradition in the city.

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Pop diva and tenor

In Rio, 2 million white-clad partygoers—Brazilians and foreign tourists—are expected to ring in the New Year on famed Copacabana beach, watching a spectacular “green” fireworks extravaganza.

And more than a million revelers are expected to flock to New York’s Times Square where pop diva Lady Gaga and tenor Placido Domingo are among the star-studded lineup at the famed location, where a crystal ball will drop at the stroke of midnight.

New Zealand may be among the first places to see in the New Year but heavy rains over most of the country has put a dampener on parties, with two major celebrations in the North Island canceled due to the weather while swollen rivers were forcing evacuations around Nelson, in the South Island.

In Japan, a country still suffering the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, families were gathering for trips to shrines to mark the New Year.

But refugees from the nation’s nuclear crisis, which was triggered by the natural disasters, say they have 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 nuclear refugees living in a 36-story Tokyo tower block.

“New Year holidays were so enjoyable as my family and relatives got together to celebrate another year, but they have dispersed and now live separately since the nuclear accident.”

Sad occasion

In the Philippines, where killer floods spawned by Tropical Storm “Sendong” (international code name: Washi) have swept away whole villages in Northern Mindanao, the normally festive New Year’s day is expected to be a sad and somber occasion.

“Our countrymen are still reeling from the effects of the storm, especially those who have lost family members,” said Civil Defense Chief Benito Ramos, who said that more than 1,250 people have died in the disaster.

Traditionally, Filipinos welcome the New Year with firecrackers and parties but there are no celebrations planned for the evacuation centers housing more than 73,000 of the 465,000 displaced by the storm which hit two weeks ago.

Ramos said he hoped New Year’s Day could still be a joyous occasion.

“Somehow, they will find a way to celebrate,” he said.

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TAGS: 2012, New Year, Philippines, Tropical storm Sendong
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