The world’s eight billion people ushered in 2023 on Saturday, saying goodbye to a turbulent 12 months marked by war in Europe, rising prices, Lionel Messi’s World Cup glory and the death of Queen Elizabeth , Pelé and former Pope Benedict.
Many were ready to put aside pinched budgets and an increasingly forgotten but not gone virus and embrace a festive atmosphere on New Year’s Eve after several years dampened by the pandemic .
In Rio de Janeiro, crowds packed the city’s Copacabana beach – up to two million were expected – for music and fireworks, without the coronavirus safety measures of recent years.
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The festivities came just hours before Brazil inaugurated new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday, following his victory in October polls.
After outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro’s much-criticized pandemic policies, Copacabana partygoer Ana Carolina Rodrigues, dressed in the traditional white of the night, says she hopes 2023 will bring a new government that “looks more at people’s health “.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Parisians – and a “normal” number of tourists, comparable to 2018 or 2019, according to officials, took the opportunity to gather shoulder to shoulder for a fireworks show on the Champs-Élysées Elysium
Police said around a million people turned out for the celebration, where children in prams and revelers with champagne were equally visible.
“We’re here for the atmosphere, to have fun and to be together,” said 19-year-old student Ilyes Hachelef. “And it’s beautiful!”
Hours earlier, Sydney became one of the first major cities to ring in 2023, re-staking its claim as the “New Year’s Eve capital of the world” after two years of lockdowns and celebrations muted by the coronavirus with a fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
– “Year of Ukraine” –
For some, 2022 was a year of Wordle, the big resignation, a new Taylor Swift album, an Oscar slap and multi-billion dollar meltdowns.
It also saw the deaths of Queen Elizabeth II, Brazilian soccer icon Pele, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jiang Zemin and Shinzo Abe. Former Pope Benedict XVI also died on New Year’s Eve.
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The world’s population surpassed the historic milestone of eight billion people in November.
But 2022 is more likely to be remembered for the return of armed conflict in Europe, a continent that was the melting pot of two world wars.
“It was our year. Ukraine’s year,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his late-night speech Saturday, reflecting on his country’s year-long war effort.
More than 300 days after Russia’s failed invasion of Ukraine, some 7,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 more injured, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Some 16 million Ukrainians have fled their homes.
For those who remain, there will be a 11pm to 5am curfew amid regular blackouts and Russian missile barrages.
The latest Russian attacks in Ukraine on Saturday claimed at least one more life and injured several others, Ukrainian officials said, while an explosion was heard in Kyiv just after the New Year.
“We don’t know for sure what the new year 2023 will bring us,” Zelensky said, promising that Ukrainians would fight back and offering a wish for “victory” in the new year.
In Kyiv, filmmaker Yaroslav Mutenko, 23, was defiant after a shell hit the four-star Alfavito hotel near his apartment, insisting the blast would not stop him from partying.
“Our enemies, the Russians, can destroy our calm, but they cannot destroy our spirit,” he said.
– London Fireworks –
There seemed to be a pent-up appetite for big celebrations in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Moscow canceled its traditional fireworks display as Putin said in a New Year’s speech that “moral and historical correctness” is on Russia’s side as the country faces international condemnation for the war
Meanwhile, London welcomed crowds to its official New Year’s Eve fireworks display for the first time since the pandemic.
One place that did not join in the pyrotechnics was the English seaside town of Scarborough, which canceled its display so as not to disturb the walrus “Thor”, which recently appeared in the harbour.
Councilor Steve Siddons said the city was disappointed, “but the welfare of the walrus must come first.”
In New York, crowds braved freezing rain to await the famous ball drop in Times Square, a tradition that dates back to 1907.
“I think we’ll be waiting about eight hours,” said Mexican tourist Fabiola Cepeda. “It’s definitely worth it.”
– The shadow of Covid –
The Middle East region welcomed 2023 with a traditional fireworks display from the world’s tallest building, the 830-meter (2,723-foot) Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Laser lights were added to the landmark spectacle, which carried messages such as “Hugging again”, an apparent reference to the end of Covid restrictions.
However, China begins 2023 battling a spike in Covid infections.
But New Year’s celebrations still went ahead as planned, even as hospitals in the world’s most populous nation have been overwhelmed by an explosion of cases following the decision to lift strict rules on ” zero-Covid”.
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In Beijing, revelers gathered at clubs, music venues and bars, while central Shanghai saw masked youths celebrating in the streets near the iconic Bund promenade, according to videos on social media.
Meanwhile, in Wuhan, where Covid-19 first emerged, large crowds released festive balloons in a central square as the clock struck midnight.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told the country in a televised New Year’s address that despite the outbreak, “the light of hope is right in front of us.”