US, Europe hope the new year brings better times

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm •  Published: December 31, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — From teeming Times Square to a once-isolated Asian country celebrating its first public New Year's Eve countdown in decades, the world looked to the start of 2013 with hope for renewal after a year of economic turmoil, searing violence and natural disasters.

Fireworks, concerts and celebrations unfolded around the globe to ring in the new year and, for some, to wring out the old.

"With all the sadness in the country, we're looking for some good changes in 2013," Laura Concannon, of Hingham, Mass., said as she, her husband, Kevin, and his parents took in the scene in bustling Times Square on Monday.

A blocks-long line of bundled-up revelers with New Year's hats and sunglasses boasting "2013" formed hours before the first ball drop in decades without Dick Clark, who died in April and was to be honored with a tribute concert and his name printed on pieces of confetti.

Security in Times Square was tight, with a mass of uniformed police and plainclothes officers assigned to blend into the crowd. With police Commissioner Raymond Kelly proclaiming that Times Square would be the "safest place in the world on New Year's Eve," officers used barriers to prevent overcrowding and checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags.

Syracuse University student Taylor Nanz, 18, said she and a friend had been standing in Times Square since 1:20 p.m. Monday. They hadn't moved from their spot because "if you leave, you lose your place," she said, shivering behind an iron barricade with a clear view of One Times Square, the building where the crystal ball hovered.

"It's the first time — and the last time," she said.

Elsewhere hours earlier, lavish fireworks displays lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai, multicolored fireworks danced early Tuesday up and down the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In Russia, spectators filled Moscow's iconic Red Square as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin.

Organizers said about 90,000 people gathered in a large field Yangon, Myanmar, for their first chance to do what much of the world does every Dec. 31 — watch a countdown. 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.

"We feel like we are in a different world," said Yu Thawda, a university student who went with three of her friends.

Parts of Europe held scaled-back festivities and street parties, the mood a bit 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. About 22,000 revelers in the Madrid square celebrated the arrival of the new year under umbrellas as rain fell steadily.

London, the often soggy British capital, was dry and clear, though, as the familiar chimes of the clock inside the Big Ben tower counted down the final seconds of 2012 and a dazzling display of fireworks lit the skies above Parliament Square. People cheered as the landmarks were bathed in the light of the display, which included streamers shot out of the London Eye wheel and blazing rockets launched from the banks of the River Thames.

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