Snazzy hello to new year

Edward Tsumele and Sapa

Edward Tsumele and Sapa

As billions of people worldwide greeted the new year, Johannesburg's inner-city residents and visitors partied and marched through the streets of Johannesburg on New Year's Eve.

A gigantic snake-like formation inched its way from Kotze Street in Hillbrow to Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown.

A riot of colourful costumes adorned the streets, giving hope amid the despair and violence that usually pervades the overcrowded Hillbrow.

But there was minimal participation by the Hillbrow residents, who watched the parade from balconies and pavements as floats, colourfully dressed characters from the length and breadth of the African continent - Nigerians, Kenyans, Zimbabweans and South Africans - danced, sang and boogied their way through Jozi.

"What is especially beautiful is that most of the children in the parade composed their own music in the camps we held where we try to inculcate the culture of creativity among the children," said Steven Sack, director of arts, culture and heritage services for the City of Johannesburg, as he marched through the streets with the parade.

Thousands of Joburgers had a ball at Mary Fitzgerald Square when some of South Africa's best musicians went on stage to usher in the new year .

Vusi Mahlasela was great; Yeoville-based reggae outfit Tidala Waves sparkled and drummed up a storm, while Kabelo simply demonstrated he is still a force to be reckoned with.

And in the different time zones across the globe millions of people in large crowds crowds rang in the new year, with raucous revellers counting down to 2007 first in Sydney, Australia, then in Berlin and finally in New York's legendary Times Square.

A further billion people tuned in on television to watch the sparkling New Year's Day ball drop in Manhattan, New York, as cheering crowds in fairly mild weather joined in singing Auld Lang Syne with fireworks bursting overhead and tons of confetti showering down.

It was the city's most upbeat New Year's celebration in years, after festivities in 2004 were overshadowed by the Asian tsunami, and last year by the devastation wrought in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

Europe, Bulgaria and Romania saw their biggest parties since the fall of communism 17 years ago as tens of thousands sang, danced and drank their way into both the new year and the European Union (EU).

Spectacular sound and light shows lit up Sofia and Bucharest as the two countries celebrated becoming the 26th and 27th members of the EU bloc.

In at least two capitals, however, New Year festivities were soured by violence.

Deadly bombings cut short celebrations in Bangkok, and a bombings prompted Madrid to cancel its festivities.

In the Indian capital New Delhi, police averted potential bloodshed when they arrested two Islamic militants carrying explosives hidden in toys, which they had allegedly planned to detonate in a busy market.

Severe weather forced the cancellation of festivities in New Zealand and northern parts of Britain. Celebrations in Northern Ireland's capital of Belfast, the Scottish hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as the northern English cities of Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds were all cancelled because of the weather.

In London an estimated 150000 lining the River Thames cheered at the dazzling and deafening 15-minute fireworks display over the Houses of Parliament's famous Big Ben as well as the London Eye, the world's tallest observation wheel.

In Paris an estimated 400000 crowded the Champs-Elysees despite French youths torching more than 300 vehicles throughout the country, police said.