The world’s eight billion people prepared to usher in 2023 on Saturday and bid farewell to a tumultuous 12 months marked by war in Europe, wild price hikes and Lionel Messi’s World Cup glory.
After a couple of pandemic-warm years, many people will be looking to cut loose this New Year’s Eve — pinned budgets and a virus that is increasingly forgotten, but not gone.
Sydney will be one of the first major cities to celebrate in 2023, reasserting its claim to be the “New Year’s Eve capital of the world” after two years of lockdown and omicron-muted festivities.
Australia’s borders have now reopened, and more than a million people are expected to flock to Sydney’s sparkling harbor to watch 100,000 fireworks light up the southern sky.
Sydney officials expect around half a billion more people to watch the festivities online or on TV.
“If we can bring everyone together to celebrate and look forward to the coming year with new optimism and joy, we’ll see it as a job well done,” said fireworks organizer Fortunato Fotti.
For some, 2022 was the year of worlds, epic resignations, a new Taylor Swift album, an Oscar slap and the fall of billionaires.
It also saw the deaths of Queen Elizabeth II, Brazilian football icon Pele, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jiang Zemin and Shinzo Abe.
But 2022 is likely to be remembered for a return to armed conflict in Europe – a continent that suffered two world wars.
‘A Quiet Sky’
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the more than 300 days since Russia’s deadly attack on Ukraine, nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed and another 10,000 injured.
About 16 million Ukrainians have fled their homes.
For those who remain, a curfew will be in effect from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am amid periodic blackouts and Russian missile barrages.
While some will mark the occasion with quiet candlelight prayers, others intend to party the night away in a collective display of resolve.
In previous years, “people always stayed with us until three or four in the morning, so staying here for an hour or two wouldn’t be a problem,” said Kyiv restaurateur Tatyana Mitrofanov.
In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the appetite for lavish celebrations seems to have waned.
Moscow has canceled its traditional fireworks display after Mayor Sergei Sobyanin asked residents to vote on whether to mark the occasion.
Muscovites like Irina Shapovalova, a 51-year-old nursery worker, said their main wish for 2023 was “a peaceful sky above our heads”.
State-owned broadcaster VGTRK has promised to deliver a “new year atmosphere, despite changes in the country and the world”.
But this year’s broadcast will be without iconic performer and main presenter Maxim Galkin, who fled into exile after denouncing the Ukraine war.
He has since been given “foreign agent” status by Russian authorities.
While Covid-19 vaccines have allowed life to return to semi-normality in much of the world, in China, the virus continues to thwart efforts to move forward.
Hospitals in the world’s most populous country have been overwhelmed by an explosion of cases since Beijing’s decision to lift strict “zero-Covid” regulations.
New Year’s Eve parties are still planned in countless bars, theaters and malls.
But Shanghai officials have said there will be no formal activities on the city’s famous Bund waterfront.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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