World rings in 2012 and bids adieu to a tough year

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Paris, Jan 1: Fireworks glittered and boomed as revellers in Australia and Asia welcomed 2012 and others around the world looked forward to bidding adieu to a year marred by natural disasters and economic turmoil.

In Sydney, more than 1.5 million people watched the shimmering pyrotechnic display designed around the theme "Time to Dream" a nod to the eagerness many felt in moving forward after the rough year.

New York's Times Square was awash in optimistic sentiments as it prepared to welcome hordes of New Year's Eve partiers.

The mood was less bright in Europe, where leaders set the tone for a continent hammered by an unprecedented economic crisis that has put the euro's existence in question, turning in New Year's messages that 2012 will bring more financial hardship.

Hannah Magauer, a 26-year-old German who was visiting London for New Year's, tried to put a hopeful spin on Chancellor Angela Merkel's warning that 2012 would be more difficult than 2011. "When you see all of Europe, everything seems to be falling apart and it's a bit scary," she said.

"But, at the moment we are very positive we will survive it." In New York, the crowd cheered as workers lit the crystal-panelled ball that drops at midnight today and put it through a test run, 122 metres 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 US tradition. 

"2012 is going to be a better year. It has to be," said "2012 is going to be a better year. It has to be," said Fred Franke, 53, who was visiting the city with his family even after losing his job in military logistics this month at a Honeywell International division in Jacksonville, Florida.

Authorities in Berlin expected a million revellers to gather around the city's landmark Brandenburg Gate for a massive party complete with live performances from the Scorpions and other bands, as well as a 10-minute long firework display.

Merkel said in her annual speech which was prerecorded and released in written form before being broadcast on national TV that despite the problems Europe is facing, the financial crisis will eventually bring the continent closer together.

"Germany is doing well, even if next year will no doubt be more difficult than 2011," Merkel said.

In Greece, where the government has imposed especially harsh austerity measures, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos could promise no reprieve.

"A very difficult year is coming: we must continue our effort decisively. So that our sacrifices will not have been in vain," he said.

In light of the warning, Nicholas Adamopoulos, who works as a manager at a pharmaceuticals company, couldn't muster a sunny outlook for the new year.

"You want optimistic people, you go to Brazil," he said. Thousands of people marched through Edinburgh, some carrying torches or wearing period costumes, yesterday night in preparation for the world-famous Hogmanay street party, where around 80,000 partygoers are welcoming 2012 at the stroke of midnight, before erupting into a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

AP

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