As 2016 drew to a close, revelers around the world are bidding a weary adieu to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts and deaths of legendary celebrities.
Revelers around the world have been welcoming 2017 with crackling fireworks displays and loud cheering, saying goodbye to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts and the deaths of several beloved performers.
The people of Sydney were treated to a glittering display over their famed harbor and bridge that honored the singer David Bowie and actor Gene Wilder, who both passed away in 2016.
The tone was more somber elsewhere, though, including Berlin, where some expressed worry about the political mood in Germany. It was also relatively quiet in China’s two largest cities, Beijing and Shanghai.
In New York City, meanwhile, people packed into Times Square hours before midnight to secure coveted spots to watch the annual ball drop.
Tourists and French revelers swarmed along Paris’ illuminated Champs Elysees Avenue on a frosty night, admiring the laser display from the Arc de Triomphe and lines of trees sparkling with lights.
“It’s so magical to be here in Paris, on what people say is the world’s most beautiful avenue,” said Maureen O’Reilly, 42, a visitor from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“At times like this, I do think about all those terrible things in Aleppo and how lucky we are here in Europe despite everything,” she added.
Some were happy to say goodbye to 2016.
“It’s been such a horrible year, with all these (entertainment celebrity) deaths, Syria, Brexit and Trump. I say: good riddance,” said Karine Dublot, 38, from Lyon.
Others found a bright side.
“My hope for 2017 is that we solve all the problems with the migrants here in France, and see the end of (President) Francois Hollande,” said Marc Valli, 35, from Paris. “We need someone who can sort out immigration as president.”
Hollande, who is not standing for re-election in the upcoming ballot, used his last New Year’s address praise his country’s resilience in the face of deadly attacks in Nice and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Hollande said French people they could be proud for continuing “to live, work, go out, move around and cherish … freedom.”
Police were out in force — with over 10,000 deployed in the French capital alone — and authorities said that “the passage to the New Year will take place in the context of a persistent and very high terrorist threat.”
In Berlin the mood was more sombre than celebratory.
“I don’t like the way politics is going,” said Daniel Brandt. “Fears are being fanned and people are so angry with each other.”
The tone of public debate in Germany has become shriller over the past two years with the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants.
Two Israeli tourists, on a visit to the German capital, seemed at a loss when asked about their wishes for 2017. “Peace on Earth. Just happiness, really,” said Nathan and Libat, declining to give their last names.
Walking by the Reichstag, Germany’s Parliament building, Hamed Noori said 2016 had been a good year. “I came to Germany from Afghanistan,” he said. “Life is better here.”
Birgitta Bergquist, a recent retiree visiting Berlin from Sweden, said she looked forward to spending more time with her 3-year-old granddaughter. “And we hope the family stays healthy.”
Nicole Durand-Nusser, originally from France but living in Berlin for almost 50 years, said 2016 had been a difficult year: “Brexit, Trump, Erdogan — it’s all getting worse.
“I’m a convinced European and I hope Europe doesn’t collapse in 2017,” she said.
Using the hashtag “.nichtlustig” — meaning “not funny” — Berlin police tweeted Saturday that the unnamed man “is now celebrating .Welcome2017 with us.”
The glittering display over Sydney’s famed harbour and bridge featured Saturn and star-shaped fireworks set to “Space Oddity,” the classic song by Bowie — one of the seemingly endless parade of beloved entertainers who died in 2016.
Wilder was also honoured as the bridge lit up in a rainbow of colours while a song from Wilder’s famed film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” played.
“This year, sadly, we saw the loss of many music and entertainment legends around the world,” fireworks show co-producer Catherine Flanagan said. “So celebrating their music as part of Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks displays is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and what the future may hold.”
Residents in Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two largest cities, were passing New Year’s Eve quietly in a relative state of security lockdown, according to Chinese media reports citing police.
The Bund waterfront in Shanghai had no celebrations, authorities announced this week, while the sale, use and transportation of fireworks in central Shanghai will be prohibited altogether. Large buildings that often display light shows also stayed dark. More than 30 people died two years ago in a deadly stampede on Shanghai’s waterfront, where 300,000 people had gathered to watch a planned light show.
Beijing police also said countdowns, light shows, lotteries and other organized activities will not be held in popular shopping districts such as Sanlitun and Guomao. Beijing police advised citizens to avoid crowded areas, closely watch elderly relatives and children, and be aware of exit routes in venues.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his annual New Year’s Eve address that his government will continue to focus on alleviating poverty at home and resolutely defending China’s territorial rights.
More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration.
Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. The city’s celebrity chefs have crafted elaborate prix fixe menus complete with caviar and champagne toasts.
An eight-minute fireworks show will kick off at the stroke of midnight, with rockets launching from the tops of half a dozen casinos.
Federal officials have ranked the celebration just below the Super Bowl and on par with the festivities in Times Square. FBI and Secret Service agents will work alongside local police departments that are putting all hands on deck for the big night.
The Philippines’ notorious tradition of dangerous New Year’s Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire.
Powerful firecrackers and gunfire have maimed hundreds of people and killed some each year across the Philippines despite government crackdowns, an annual government scare campaign and efforts by officials to set up centralized fireworks displays, like on Saturday night.
Duterte’s southern Davao City hasn’t been tainted by the bloody record because of a largely successful firecrackers ban he enforced when he was still the city’s crime-busting mayor. Last month, he said he would delay his plan to replicate his Davao ban nationwide by a year because many have already invested in firecrackers and he was concerned by the impact of an abrupt ban on poor Filipinos employed in the industry.
Before New Year’s Eve, the Department of Health said Saturday that 139 people had been injured by firecracker blasts in recent days, mostly children under 15.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
In Dubai, hundreds of thousands of people watched fireworks shoot from the sides of the world’s tallest building, the 828-meter (2,716-foot) Burj Khalifa. The show was also streamed live online.
There was no repeat of last year’s excitement, when police say faulty wiring sparked a fire several hours before midnight at The Address Downtown, a 63-story skyscraper nearby. The high-rise tower still remains under repair.
Just before the fireworks, private security guards stood every 50 metres (55 yards) as metal barriers blocked off sidewalks to keep the streets around the Burj Khalifa clear for roaming emergency vehicles, their strobe lights flashing in the darkness.
While 2016 brought challenges across the world, those gathered to watch the fireworks in Dubai instead chose to focus on the positive.
For Ina Dumdum, 33, of Manila, Philippines, 2016 brought a new job in Abu Dhabi and greater economic security. Wearing a pink pair of do-it-yourself “Happy New Year” rabbit ears on her head,she smiled while saying she hoped for a baby in the New Year. “2016 was prosperity,” she said.
Tony Ngalande, 38, of Lilongwe, Malawi, also saw success in his automobile importing business. However, “2016 was full of a lot of surprises,” he said, mentioning the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the British vote to leave the European Union.
Ngalande laughed when asked if those surprises could portend anything negative for the new year. “So far so good,” he said with a smile.