By Jennifer Peltz and Verena Dobnik/The Associated Press
NEW YORK — From the glittering New Year’s ball dropping in Times Square to joyous fireworks in London and cheers in a once-isolated Asian country, the world did its best to ring in 2013 with hope for renewal after a year of economic uncertainty, searing violence and natural disasters.
“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 joined hundreds of thousands of revelers lined up for blocks through bustling Times Square on Monday.
Revelers with New Year’s hats and sunglasses boasting “2013” packed the streets in the 35-degree cold to count down the first ball drop in decades without Dick Clark, who died in April and was honored with his name printed on pieces of confetti and on one of the crystal panels on the Times Square ball.
Matias Dellanno, 37, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, stood in the middle of the square with his wife and 3-year-old son, beaming with joy as his eyes caught the multicolored lighting illuminating the square just before midnight.
“I feel a completely new hope for 2013,” he said. “It can’t be any worse than last year, when my business lost clients. It was a rough year for everyone. The new year has to be better!”
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, 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 Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated New Year’s Eve with a vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica to give thanks for 2012 and look ahead to 2013. He said that despite all the death and injustice in the world, goodness prevails.
In Russia, spectators filled Moscow’s iconic Red Square as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin. In Rio de Janeiro, revelers dressed head-to-toe in white as dictated by Brazilian new years’ tradition flooded onto Copacabana beach for a concert.
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.
London, the often soggy British capital, was dry and clear, 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.
Elsewhere, the atmosphere of celebration was muted with concern.
Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, canceled festivities after the death of a rape victim on Saturday touched off days of mourning and reflection about women’s safety.
In Times Square, some revelers checked their cellphones to keep up with news of lawmakers’ tentative deal to skirt the fiscal cliff combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts that threatened to reverberate globally. And the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and Superstorm Sandy mingled into the memories of 2012.
“This has been a very eventful year, on many levels,” Denise Norris said as she and her husband, the Rev. Urie Norris, surveyed the crowd.
In Times Square, Elvis Rivera, of Manhattan, was taking photos to capture the moment. He wasn’t planning to ring in the new year there but went by to take pictures.
How did he feel about the end of 2012?
“Relieved,” Rivera said, adding that there had been a death and job losses in his family this year.
His hopes for 2013?
“A better life” and more money, he said.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Verena Dobnik in New York; Aye Aye Win in Yangon, Myanmar; Silvia Hui in London, and Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.