London kicks off the roaring 20s with football anthems as UK marks new year

The world celebrated the New Year on Wednesday with fireworks displays from Sydney to London, although celebrations were clouded by deadly wildfires in Australia, protests in Hong Kong and India and new nuclear tensions with North Korea.

Large crowds gathered in European capitals for spectacular fireworks displays that lit up the skies over landmarks like Big Ben in London, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Parthenon in Athens and the Kremlin in Moscow.

In Australia, a million revellers thronged Sydney harbour and nearby districts to watch more than 100,000 fireworks explode above the city, even as thousands of people along the country's eastern seaboard sought refuge from the bushfires on beaches.

Thousands in Hong Kong welcomed 2020 on neon-lit promenades in the picturesque Victoria Harbour, breaking into pro-democracy chants shortly after the countdown to midnight.

Hong Kong authorities cancelled the main midnight fireworks display for the first time in a decade, citing security concerns. A "Symphony of Lights" took place instead, involving projections on the city's tallest skyscrapers, while smaller-scale pyrotechnics were launched from waterfront rooftops.

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The world welcomes 2020
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The world welcomes 2020
ATHENS, GREECE - JANUARY 01: Fireworks explode near the ancient temple of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis hill as part of Greece's celebrations for the New Year in Athens, Greece on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Andreas Papakonstantinou/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode over the ancient temple of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis hill as part of Greece's celebrations for the New Year in Athens on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Aris MESSINIS / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 1: Paris celebrates the New Year as the Arc de Triomphe is engulfed in fireworks as thousands descended on the Champs Elysees to welcome the New Year on January 1, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)
Fireworks explode behind the quadriga of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to usher in the New Year on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
01 January 2020, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: The new year is welcomed on the Main with fireworks in front of the skyline. Photo: Andreas Arnold/dpa (Photo by Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the night sky over the Red Square within the new year celebrations in Moscow, Russia on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TAIPEI, TAIWAN - JANUARY 01: People sing the national anthem during the 2020 New Year's Day Flag Raising Ceremony in front of presidential palace on January 01, 2020 in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 1: Fireworks explode over The Coca-Cola London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Elizabeth Tower near Parliament as thousands of revelers gather along the banks of the River Thames to ring in the New Year on January 1, 2019 in London, England. At the stroke of midnight, Big Ben rang in the new decade after being silent all year long for renovations. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
children spin burning steelwools to sprinkle fire sparks as they celebrate the new year on a street of Kibera slum in Nairobi, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks light the sky over the Arc de Triomphe during the New Year's celebrations on the Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris, on on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)
dpatop - 01 January 2020, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: The new year is welcomed on the Main with fireworks in front of the skyline. Photo: Andreas Arnold/dpa (Photo by Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images)
ERBIL, IRAQ - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the night sky over Erbil Citadel during the new year celebrations in Erbil, Iraq on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode behind the quadriga of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to usher in the New Year on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the night sky over the Red Square within the new year celebrations in Moscow, Russia on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People take pictures of the fireworks erupting in the sky over the Arc de Triomphe during the New Year's celebrations on the Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris, on on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)
New Year's Eve celebrations over the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna, Bulgaria on January 01, 2020 (Photo by Hristo Rusev/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ERBIL, IRAQ - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the night sky over Erbil Citadel during the new year celebrations in Erbil, Iraq on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
children spin burning steelwools to sprinkle fire sparks as they celebrate the new year on a street of Kibera slum in Nairobi, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the night sky over the Red Square within the new year celebrations in Moscow, Russia on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode over the ancient temple of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis hill as part of Greece's celebrations for the New Year in Athens on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Aris MESSINIS / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode in the sky over the Ortakoy Mosque by the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge during the New Year's celebrations, in Istanbul on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)
Revellers enjoy the New Year's celebrations at the Red Square, in central Moscow, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
EDIRNE, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: Fireworks illuminate the night sky over Selimiye Mosque, Uc Serefeli Mosque (the Mosque with unusual minaret with three Balconies) and Old Mosque within the new year celebrations in Edirne, Turkey on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode over the Kremlin in Moscow during New Year celebrations, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode over the Kremlin in Moscow during New Year celebrations, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
People watch fireworks as part of the New Year celebrations in Rawalpindi on January 1, 2020. - Billions around the world are set to cheer in 2020 after a tumultuous year dominated by demonstrations calling for political upheaval and action on climate change. (Photo by Farooq NAEEM / AFP) (Photo by FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: Fireworks illuminate the night sky in front of Ortakoy Mosque and July 15 Martyrs' Bridge within the new year celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 1: Fireworks go off at the Burj Khalifa on New Year's Eve 2019 on January 1, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by WIN-Initiative/Getty Images)
DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 31: People take part in the sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, India on December 31, 2019. Thousands of people gathered at the protest site. (Photo by Javed Sultan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: Fireworks go off in front of July 15 Martyrs' Bridge within the new year celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey on January 01, 2020. (Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Sri Lankans watch fireworks during new year's celebrations in Colombo, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)
Performers take photos after the new year count down celebration at the Shougang Industrial Park, Shijingshan District, in Beijing on January 1, 2020. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Sri Lankans watch fireworks during new year's celebrations in Colombo, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks erupt over downtown Bangkok during New Year's celebrations on January 1, 2020. - Some 100 000 people gathered to welcome the new decade. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
SINGAPORE - JANUARY 01: Drones are seen forming the year '2020' formation as fireworks, created by Star Island, light up the sky as Singapore ushers in the New Year at Marina Bay on January 1, 2020 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
A woman is sprayed with foam as she celebrates the New Year in Kuala Lumpur on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images)
TAIPEI, TAIWAN - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the Taiwan skyline and Taipei 101 during New Years Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JANUARY 1: Revelers celebrate as they welcome the New Year during a countdown party at a mall on January 1, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JANUARY 01: People stand on the rooftop of a hotel as they watch fireworks illuminate the city's skyline during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1, 2020 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
People take a selfie during New Year’s Eve in Seoul, South Korea December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks erupt over the Melbourne central business district during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
A person takes a picture of a couple in front of a 2020 luminous sign during New Year’s Eve in Seoul, South Korea December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Performers rehearse before a New Year's Eve countdown event at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic headquarters in Bejiing, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Revelers around the globe are bidding farewell to a decade that will be remembered for the rise of social media, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and, of course, President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A participant poses for a picture prior to the Sao Silvestre race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Thousands of runners took part in the 15-kilometer race held annually on New Year's Eve. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
Stock traders wear New Year's 2020 party glasses at New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Stocks slipped globally in quiet New Year's Eve trading Tuesday with many markets closed. Wall Street could close 2019 with back-to-back daily losses in a year that the U.S. posted the largest market gains since 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A policeman, front, gestures as they check the identity of people at a mall on New Year's eve in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Chinese President Xi Jinping in a New Year's address Tuesday has called for Hong Kong to return to stability following months of pro-democracy protests. Protests that began in June over a proposed extradition law have spread to include demands for more democracy and other grievances. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
VARIOUS CITIES, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during the midnight display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images)
A man walks near a light sculpture before a New Year's Eve countdown event at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic headquarters in Bejiing, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Revelers around the globe are bidding farewell to a decade that will be remembered for the rise of social media, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and, of course, President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
People run away from water cannon during a protest on New Year‘s Eve in Mongkok, Hong Kong, China December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in the midnight display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the sky above Sydney Harbour during the midnight fireworks display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1st, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the sky above Sydney Harbour during the midnight fireworks display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1st, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in the midnight display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images)
Fireworks explode over Marina Bay during New Year's Eve celebrations in Singapore December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
People raise their mobile phone lights as they form a human chain on New Year's eve in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Chinese President Xi Jinping in a New Year's address Tuesday has called for Hong Kong to return to stability following months of pro-democracy protests. Protests that began in June over a proposed extradition law have spread to include demands for more democracy and other grievances. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Protesters raise their cellphone lights as they walk past a light box featuring a picture of Hong Kong on New Year's eve in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Months of pro-democracy protests have brought “sadness, anxiety, disappointment and even rage,” the city’s leader Carrie Lam said in a News Year’s address Tuesday. Protests that began in June over a proposed extradition law have spread to include demands for more democracy and other grievances. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
SYDBEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during the midnight display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 01: Fireworks are seen exploding from the Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and Sky Tower during the Auckland New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Steve Thomson/Getty Images for ATEED)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 01: Fireworks are seen exploding from the Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and Sky Tower during the Auckland New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Steve Thomson/Getty Images for ATEED)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 01: Crowds watch fireworks from the SkyTower during Auckland New Year's Eve celebrations on January 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)
Anti-government protesters tear down Christmas and New Year's decorations during a demonstration on New Year's Eve outside Mong Kok police station in Hong Kong, China December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Revellers enjoy the New Year's celebrations at the Red Square, in central Moscow, on January 1, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - DECEMBER 31: People attend the concert of Serbian singer Zeljko Joksimovic during new year celebrations in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on December 31, 2019. (Photo by Elman Omic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 01: A man takes a photograph of the sunrise on the Shibuya Sky observation deck at the Shibuya Scramble Square building on January 1, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Visitors to the newly constructed commercial building in the Shibuya district observed the year's first sunrise. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
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In Japan, people took turns striking Buddhist temple bells, in accordance with tradition

Sydney decided to press ahead with its fireworks despite calls by some members of the public for the display to be cancelled in solidarity with fire-hit areas in New South Wales, of which the city is the capital.

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said planning had begun 15 months ago and that the event also gave a boost to the economy.

Some towns in eastern Australia cancelled their New Year's celebrations as naval vessels and military helicopters helped firefighters rescue people fleeing the fires, which have turned swathes of New South Wales into a raging furnace.

The fires have killed at least 11 people since October, two of them overnight into Tuesday, destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) and left many towns and rural areas without electricity or mobile coverage.

Elsewhere, revellers from Auckland, New Zealand, to Pyongyang, the capital of isolated North Korea, welcomed the new year with fireworks displays.

But amid the celebrations of a new year and decade, old tensions threatened to flare up. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Wednesday his country would keep developing nuclear programmes and introduce a "new strategic weapon" in the near future, after the United States missed a year-end deadline to restart denuclearisation talks.

PROTESTS, BREXIT

In Hong Kong, rocked by months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations, protesters were urged to wear masks at a New Year rally called "Don't forget 2019 - Persist in 2020," according to social media posts.

Some 6,000 police were deployed and Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, appealed for calm and reconciliation in her New Year's Eve video message.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Thousands of Indians ushered in the year by demonstrating against a citizenship law they say will discriminate against Muslims and chip away at India's secular constitution.

The demonstrations came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempts to dampen protests that have run for nearly three weeks.

Irshad Alam, a 25-year-old resident of the Shaheen Bagh area of New Delhi, stood with his 1-year-old child in his arms and his wife by his side. He said he had been participating in the protest every day.

"It's freezing here," he said. "But we are still here because we care about this movement."

More than three years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fresh from winning a parliamentary majority in last month's election, promised in his New Year's message to "get Brexit done before the end of this month."

"As we say goodbye to 2019, we can also turn the page on the division, rancour and uncertainty which has dominated public life and held us back for far too long," Johnson added.

In New York, large crowds were gathering ahead of the annual New Year's Eve ball drop over Times Square.

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