World ready for a more hopeful 2010
PARIS (AP) – Paris jazzed up the Eiffel Tower with a multicolored, disco-style light display as the world basked in New Year’s festivities with hopes that 2010 and beyond will bring more peace and prosperity.
From fireworks over Sydney’s famous bridge to balloons sent aloft in Tokyo, revelers across the globe at least temporarily shelved worries about the future to bid farewell to “The Noughties” – a bitter-tinged nickname for the first decade of the 21st century playing on a term for “zero” and evoking the word naughty.
Even as some major stock market indexes rose in 2009, the financial downturn hit hard, sending many industrial economies into recession, tossing millions out of work and out of their homes as foreclosures rose dramatically in some countries.
“The year that is ending has been difficult for everybody. No continent, no country, no sector has been spared,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on national TV in a New Year’s Eve address. “Even if the tests are unfinished, 2010 will be a year of renewal,” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned her people that the start of the new decade won’t herald immediate relief from the global economic ills. South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, was more enthusiastic, saying the World Cup is set to make 2010 the country’s most important year since the end of apartheid in 1994.
At midnight in Rio de Janeiro, about 2 million people gathered along the 2.5-mile Copacabana beach to watch a huge fireworks display and listen to dozens of music acts and DJs.
The multitudes came mostly dressed in traditional white clothing, a nod to the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomble but a custom followed by nearly everyone as it is thought to bring peace and good luck for the coming year.
Officials said about 12,000 police were on duty during the New Year’s Eve party in and around Copacabana to provide security.
Dressed in white and holding a glass of champagne in his hand, visitor Chad Bissonnette, 27, a nongovernmental group’s director from Washington, D.C., said, “This year was the toughest I’ve experienced – for the first time as an American I saw many friends lose jobs and businesses in my neighborhood close regularly.”
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hailed events in 2009 like 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,” Rudd said in a New Year’s message.
Australia got the some of the festivities rolling, as Sydney draped its skies with explosive bursts of crimson, purple and blue to the delight of more than 1 million New Year revelers near the harbor bridge.
Concerns that global warming might raise sea levels and cause other environmental problems were on the minds of some as the year ended.
Venice revelers rang in the New Year with wet feet as high tide on its archipelago peaked just before midnight to flood low-lying parts of the city – including the 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.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, in a statement Wednesday, suggested that terrorism book-ended the decade, with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, and foiled plot by a Nigerian man to set off explosives on a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Eve.
“In late December we were reminded at this decade’s end, just as we were at its beginning, that there is a terrorist threat which puts our safety and security at risk and which requires us to take on al-Qaida and the Taliban at the epicenter of global terrorism,” he said.
The American Embassy in Indonesia warned of a possible terrorist attack on the resort island of Bali on New Year’s Eve, citing information from the island’s governor – though local security officials said they were unaware of a threat.
In Shanghai, some people paid 518 yuan ($75) to ring the bell at the Longhua Temple at midnight and wish for new-year luck. In Chinese, saying “518” sounds like the phrase “I want prosperity.”
Some festivities went awry.
In the Philippines, hundreds of people were injured by firecrackers 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.
In Istanbul, Turkish authorities deployed some 2,000 police around Taksim Square to prevent pickpockets and the molestation of women that have marred New Year celebrations in the past. Some officers were under cover, disguised as street vendors or “even in Santa Claus dress,” Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said.