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Cities across the world ring in 2014

New York’s midnight celebration came as millions worldwide heralded the beginning of a new year including London, where fireworks included edible confetti, and Dubai, with their attempt at a record-breaking display.

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People across the world welcome in 2014

New York has joined the rest of the world in welcoming in 2014. Crowds packing into Times Square (pictured) to ring in the new year braved the cold conditions for the final countdown and to witness the drop of the famous crystal ball.

“The fireworks may be better in Dubai, or in London, but this is extra special,” Yasmina Merrir, a Washington D.C. resident told the Associated Press news agency while waiting for the ball to drop on the stroke of midnight.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” she added.

Across the Atlantic, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate to join in with the countdown. Pyrotechnics light up the sky as the New Year began. Gates to the "party mile" were closed hours earlier because of the large number of people eager to attend. Tourist company Visit had estimated that two million people flocked to Berlin for the year-end celebrations.

In London - which celebrated an hour later - fireworks, packed with edible confetti, lit the banks of the River Thames while Big Ben chimed out the midnight hour.

At least two million people were reported to have been present on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro for pyrotechnics and pop music, with Brazil welcoming in the year that will see it host football's World Cup.

Earlier, fireworks had lit up the Sydney skyline - illuminating the city's world famous Opera House and harbor and wowing over one million guests who turned out to watch the annual display.

"They were absolutely fantastic," Murphy Robertson told the news agency AFP. "The Opera House was fantastic, but the thing that really got me was the sparks, the golden curtain of sparks going off the bridge."

Local residents, long accustomed to the annual show, were also impressed this year with what Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had promised would be "bigger than ever."

"I've never seen so many people in Sydney," Dorothy Humphries told the news agency DPA, remarking on the high turnout estimated at 1.5 million.

This year's display kicked off at 9:30 pm (1130 UTC), followed by two more shows at 10:30 pm and midnight.

Though Sydney always garners international media attention for its pyrotechnic spectacle, it isn't the first to ring in the new year. New Zealand is at least two hours ahead of Australia, while Pacific island nations near the international date line - such as Kiribati and Samoa - bid farewell to 2013 three hours before Sydney's skies lit up.

Asian cities celebrate

Cities across east Asia celebrated with bells, prayers and more fireworks. In Seoul, the ritual clanging of the city's 15th century bronze bell 33 times marked the beginning of the new year, while across Japan millions were expected to visit shrines and temples to pray for peace.

Further south, officials in the Philippines planned fireworks to help assuage the hardship endured from November's typhoon which left thousands dead.

Major celebrations took place in Jakarta and Hong Kong, as well as in Beijing and Shanghai.

Dubai tries for record

Dubai's 2014 plans to garner the Guinness World Record drew plenty of attention and anticipation ahead of the event, which took place at 8:00 pm UTC.

The show spanned nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) along the seafront and included more than 400,000 fireworks, according to IMG Artists co-chair Barrett Wissman.

"It is really mind-blowing, the size of this," Wissman told the Associated Press news agency.

jlw, rc/av (AP, AFP, dpa)

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