World kisses ’17 goodbye, welcomes in 2018

Fireworks dwarf the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbor as 2018 arrived today. — Associated Press

Spectacular fireworks have lit up the skies in Hong Kong, Australia and elsewhere in Asia as revelers ring in 2018. A look at how people around the world are marking the end of the year:

France

Tens of thousands of Parisians and tourists were heading to the Champs-Elysees to attend a firework show at Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe monument, at the end of the famous avenue with its lines of trees sparkling with lights.

Officials have warned the display might be cancelled at the last minute due to a storm expected to hit France overnight.

New Year’s Eve celebrations were placed under high security in France, which has been hit by a series of attacks by Islamic extremists in recent years.

The French Interior ministry said 100,000 police officers and soldiers and 40,000 rescuers have been deployed across the country — including 2,500 on the Champs-Elysees.

Vatican

Bidding 2017 farewell, Pope Francis has decried wars, injustices and environmental decay which he says have “ruined” the year.

Francis on Sunday presided at a New Year’s Eve prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica, a traditional occasion to say thanks in each year’s last hours.

He says God gave to us a 2017 “whole and sound,” but that “we humans in many ways ruined and hurt it with works of death, lies and injustices.”

But, he added, “gratitude prevails” thanks to those “cooperating silently for the common good.”

In keeping with past practice, the pope on New Year’s Day will celebrate Mass dedicated to the theme of world peace.

Australia

Fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbor, highlighting the city’s New Year’s celebrations.

The massive fireworks display included a rainbow waterfall cascade of lights and color flowing off the harbor’s bridge to celebrate recently passed legislation legalizing gay marriage in Australia.

Over a million people were expected to gather to watch the festivities. Security was tight, but officials said there was no particular alert.

Sydney officials said the event would generate some $170 million for the city and “priceless publicity.” Nearly half the revelers were tourists.

Russia

As Russians count down the last moments before 2018 ticks over into each of the country’s 11 time zones, President Vladimir Putin is calling on them to be considerate and conciliatory with each other in the new year.

“Say the most cherished words to each other, forgive mistakes and resentment, admit love, warm up with care and attention,” Putin says in a televised message broadcast on Sunday just before midnight. “Let the trust and mutual understanding always accompany us,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after his statement aired in Kamchatka, the easternmost time zone.

Moscow prepared for fireworks and outdoor gatherings, despite weather that’s less than festive. Usually festooned with snow at New Year’s Eve, the Russian capital this year is slogging through a long spell of intermittent rain and constant gray skies.

Japan

Many Japanese celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Dog in the traditional way of praying for peace and good fortune at neighborhood Shinto shrines, and eating New Year’s food such as noodles, shrimp and sweet black beans.

Barbecued beef and octopus dumpling stalls were out at Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple, where people take turns striking the giant bell 108 times at midnight, an annual practice repeated at other Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

Las Vegas

Tens of thousands of revelers gathered in Las Vegas under the close eye of law enforcement just three months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Tourism officials expected about 330,000 people to come to Las Vegas for the festivities, which were anchored by a roughly eight-minute fireworks display at the top of seven casino-hotels.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had every officer working Sunday. The Nevada National Guard activated about 350 soldiers and airmen.

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