Revelers welcome new year with huge fireworks displays


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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- With fireworks, dancing and late-night revelry, millions around the world welcomed 2014 late Tuesday, gathering for huge displays of jubilation and unity as the new year arrived.

Dubai, a Persian Gulf city known for glitz and over-the-top achievements such as the world's tallest skyscraper, sought to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show.

In Ukraine, anti-government protesters hoped to set their own record for most people singing a national anthem simultaneously.

New York City's Times Square crowd was expecting the traditional ball drop, but no mayor this year. The new year was to be rung in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor instead.

Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hobnobbed with celebrities during past celebrations, skipped this year's festivities to spend time with family and friends. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was being sworn in at 12:01 a.m. today at his Brooklyn home. Justice Sotomayor, a New York City native, was leading the final countdown and pushing the ceremonial button to drop the ball.

The Dubai skyline was a canvas for a dazzling 30-minute show capped off with six minutes of fireworks that engulfed the city's man-made, palm-shaped island, with its fronds and trunk shimmering in thousands of lights. Organizers vowed that the fireworks would form a flying falcon, a sunrise and the United Arab Emirates flag. It was not immediately clear whether the promised designs or world record had been achieved.

In total, the extravaganza was slated to include half a million fireworks from 400 firing locations synchronized by 100 computers, said Barrett Wissman, co-chairman of IMG Artists, which was managing the event.

The spectacle erupted at midnight at the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, and moved to the city's sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab hotel before ending at the Palm. "It is really mind-blowing, the size of this," Mr. Wissman said of the display.

The fireworks display in just the first 60 seconds was slated to surpass the current world record, held by another Gulf Arab state. Kuwait has held the record since last year, when it fired more than 77,000 fireworks in a display lasting more than an hour.

Guinness World Record officials were on hand to measure the scale of Dubai's event, which needed to be longer than five minutes to qualify.

On Kiev's main square, at least 100,000 Ukrainians sang their national anthem in a sign of support for integration with Europe. The square has been the scene of massive pro-European protests for more than a month, triggered by President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to ditch a key deal with the European Union.

Britain was welcoming 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. For people in London, the New Year offered the opportunity to taste the fireworks. The city's mayor -- in conjunction with telecommunications company Vodafone -- said this year's explosive display would come packed with peach-flavored snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles, allowing people to feast with more than just their eyes. The multisensory display will also include scratch-and-sniff programs, LED wristbands and fruit-flavored sweets.

In Sydney, Australia, fireworks organizers were setting off 7.7 U.S. tons of pyrotechnics in 12 seconds in a display that sprayed from the sails of the Sydney Opera House and the city's harbor bridge. "It filled up the whole sky," said Mona Rucek, 28, a tourist from Munich, Germany.

Closer to the International Dateline, New Zealand concluded 2013 with its own fireworks erupting from Auckland's Sky Tower while cheering crowds danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation's largest city.

In Tokyo, five priests at the Zojoji temple used ropes to swing a wooden pole against a large bell, sounding the first of 108 gongs to mark the new year. Simultaneously, "2014" lit up in white lights on the modern Tokyo Tower in the background.

China planned light shows at part of the Great Wall near Beijing and at the Bund waterfront in Shanghai. The city of Wuhan in central Hubei province called off its fireworks show and banned fireworks downtown to avoid worsening its smog.

Pope Francis used his year-end prayer service of thanksgiving to urge people to ask themselves: Did they spend 2013 to further their own interests or to help others? The pontiff asked people to reflect on whether they used the past year to make the places where they live more livable and welcoming. Citing Rome as an example, he said the city is full of tourists, but also refugees.


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