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The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"Twenty tonnes of fireworks watched by more than a million people"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jon Kay
"More than half the world's population is now living in the 21st Century"
 real 28k

BBC's Robert Hall in London
"The largest crowds since the VE Day celebrations"
 real 28k

Friday, 31 December, 1999, 23:00 GMT
Europe embraces millennium fever

Crowds gathered beneath Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are celebrating the dawning of a new millennium as the greatest ever street party waves hello to the year 2000.

Into 2000
As midnight swept across Europe, celebrations began in some of the world's most famous cities including Rome, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Geneva and Paris.

Shortly before midnight the Pope spoke to Christians around the world with a New Year's Eve address.

In Berlin, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets once more only weeks after celebrating the city's reunification a deacde ago.

A Moscow Father Christmas Muscovites break open the bubbly in Red Square
In Paris, the city's residents gathered beneath a spectacular light display below the Eiffel Tower. Earlier, in a cruel twist, the tower's millennium clock had broken down.

An hour earlier, the global party took on a more contemplative tone as pilgrims who had flocked to the cradle of Christianity prayed in the Holy Land.

Authorities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem illuminated more than 100 historical sites while pilgrims held candle-lit processions.

At the same time, South Africa entered the year 2000 with its former and current presidents, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, heading an event at the infamous Robben Island, the place of their imprisonment during Apartheid.

Coming up
Opening of London's Millennium Dome
Beach party in Brazil
Midnight reaches the US
Egypt marked the new year with a laser show on the Great Pyramids and an hour earlier Moscow saw a fireworks display to rival those already seen in Sydney and Beijing.

Elsewhere in Russia, there was no reported sign of any feared millennium bug problems - despite warnings that the country would be one of the worst hit.

The UK began its night of celebrations four hours before midnight when multi-couloured lasers lit the London Eye millennium ferris wheel.

The Queen attended a service at Southwark Cathedral to emphasise a Christian message at the heart of the new millennium. She also lit a beacon on the River Thames - one of a series of laterns across the country.

Later, she will officially open the Millennium Dome.

The Thames will become a "wall of fire" when midnight reaches zero degrees longitude, the Greenwich Meridian, which since 1884 has been the base line of the world's time.

Celebrating, anticipating

Celebrations began on the International Dateline in the Pacific before midnight marched on towards New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Welcoming a new dawn at Kiribati

New Zealand saw the 2000's first baby, a boy born one minute into the new year.

A simple ceremony on Millennium Island, part of the Kiribati chain, marked the first midnight moment for the world, 14 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

A boy held a torch aloft while an old man paddled them out to sea, following the new day's journey westwards.

The BBC's John Simpson, on the island, described the moment: "Standing here, under the extraordinarily brilliant stars, on a bed of coral, the dancers were singing their hearts out, chanting, beating their great box drums.

Fireworks over Sydney Harbour

"There was a real feeling of excitement."

In Tonga, the 81-year-old king, Tafa'ahau Tupou IV, led his country in prayer before a choir sang Handel's Messiah.

New Zealand was next in line to celebrate - and potentially the first industrialised nation to suffer from the Millennium Bug.

As fireworks and lasers lit up Auckland harbour, computer experts gave the all clear for the Y2K bug, announcing to the world that the "lights were still on".

In Australia, more than 20 tonnes of fireworks were exploded in Sydney harbour as a million people crowded around the bridge and opera house.

At Buddhist temples in Japan, monks marked the new year by ringing their bells 108 times - one for each of the 108 evils.

President Jiang Zemin of China rang in the new year as he lit a ceremonial torch in the capital Beijing.

But billions of people are celebrating at their local time, taking the opportunity to party and - in Nelson Mandela's words - to be reminded of "change and the possibilities of the new millennium".

Click here to tell us how you celebrated the new millennium

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  World
In pictures: Global party round-up
31 Dec 99 |  UK
Beacons blaze across UK
31 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Computer bug fails to bite
31 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Sydney's millennium spectacular
31 Dec 99 |  UK
In pictures: The millennium countdown
31 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
New millennium's first baby
31 Dec 99 |  Americas
World's oldest person misses millennium
31 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Kiribati kicks off the party

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