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World welcomes 2023 and leaves a stormy year behind

Onlookers watch as confetti fills the air to mark the beginning of the new year, in Times Square, New York City, on Jan 1, 2023. (YUKI IWAMURA / AFP)

The world welcomed the new year with a packed party in Times Square and fireworks soaring above European capitals, while hoping for an end to the conflict in Ukraine and a return to post-COVID normality in Asia.

It was a year marked by the conflict in Ukraine, economic stresses and the effects of global warming. But it was also a year that saw a dramatic soccer World Cup, rapid technological change, and efforts to meet climate challenges.

After 2023 descended upon Asia, Africa and Europe, New York rang in the new year in typical style as thousands corralled themselves into pens under pouring rain in Times Square, waiting hours for the ball to drop

After 2023 descended upon Asia, Africa and Europe, New York rang in the new year in typical style as thousands corralled themselves into pens under pouring rain in Times Square, waiting hours for the ball to drop. A 12-foot (3.7-meter) geodesic sphere made of Waterford crystal triangles slid down a pole atop a 25-story building to mark the calendar change.

Meanwhile, millions watched the accompanying musical acts and countdown on television from dry and warm living rooms around the world.

ALSO READ: 'Gift of love' Waterford crystals placed on New Year's Eve ball

Tommy Onolfo, 40, a mechanic from nearby Nassau County, said he wore a diaper during his drenched, 14-hour wait in Times Square, as security measures require spectators to deprive themselves of all comforts to maintain a front-row view.

"I'm a lifeguard in the summer so I'm not afraid of water at all," Onolfo said. "I have my bathroom thing down to a science. I haven't had to use the diaper yet. It's just in case."

Earlier, across the Atlantic, fireworks saw in midnight in the British capital.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong artists to start 2023 New Year's celebration in NY

The celebration, which London's mayor had branded the biggest in Europe, also referenced Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September, the red and white of England's soccer team, and the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ Pride event, which had its 50-year anniversary in 2022.

Fireworks explode around the London Eye during New Year's celebrations in central London just after midnight on Jan 1, 2023. (ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

Elsewhere in Europe, fireworks exploded over the Parthenon in Athens, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where crowds gathered on the Champs-Elysees avenue to watch the French capital's first New Year fireworks since 2019.

But, like many places, the Czech capital Prague was feeling the pinch economically and so did not hold a fireworks display.

"Holding celebrations did not seem appropriate," said city hall spokesman Vit Hofman.

New Year's Eve fireworks light up the sky over the Sydney Opera House (left) and Harbour Bridge during the fireworks display in Sydney on Jan 1, 2023.
(DAVID GRAY / AFP)

Earlier, Australia kicked off the celebrations with its first restriction-free New Year's Eve after two years of COVID disruptions. Sydney welcomed the New Year with a typically dazzling fireworks display, which for the first time featured a rainbow waterfall off the Harbour Bridge.