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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 10:59 GMT
UK greets 21st Century dawn
The UK has woken up to the first dawn of the new millennium.
A massive clear-up operation is under way across the country after millions of people celebrated the advent of the year 2000 with an unforgettable night of fireworks, music and dance.
Westminster City Council reports that road sweepers have already swept up 150 tons of rubbish left by the central London revellers. Fifteen percent of this comprised champagne bottles.
There has been little or no violence reported and there are few signs of the dreaded millennium bug.
The government co-ordination centre at Whitehall said emergency services had a busy night but were in control.
The New Year - and the 21st Century - was seen in spectacularly in the capital. When Big Ben chimed midnight the River Thames was lit up by thousands of tonnes of fireworks - marking the moment Greenwich Mean Time clicked into the next 1,000 years.
The £1m display began with the simultaneous launch of 2,000 rockets.
The much-heralded "River of Fire" pyrotechnic display failed to please some revellers.
Rob Mansell, who travelled up from Berkshire to see the event, said: "We were disappointed. It didn't happen."
But a spokesman for Big Time, the company which organised the display, said it worked entirely as planned but added: "Unfortunately, it may not have been as people had pre-supposed."
Three million revellers
Up to three million people celebrated in central London alone and there were huge street parties across the rest of the country including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Plymouth and Londonderry.
In London police reported only 81 arrests - more than half of which were for drunkenness - among the massive crowds of revellers and there are few reports of disorder elsewhere.
The outgoing Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Condon, who was in the crowds with his wife, said: "At times the crowd was packed tight and to be honest it was quite scary for a while.
"But all the years of planning paid off. I'm very proud of all the emergency services. London has done us proud."
The £758m Millennium Dome is now preparing for its first paying guests with scores of workmen dismantling the huge performance stage and erect a new one.
The first visitors will be queuing for about an hour before the doors open at 1200 GMT.
On millennium eve the Queen and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, were among a crowd of 10,000 people to enjoy a spectacular show of music and dance at the Dome.
Highlights included performances from the English National Opera Orchestra, music from Jools Holland, The Corrs and Mick Hucknall and prayers read by the Archbishop of Canterbury and three Barnardo's children.
Eleven-year-old Joanne Metcalfe said: "Lord thank you for this beautiful world you have given us. Help us to care for it and to keep it safe for those who will come after us."
The Queen later joined hands with Mr Blair to sing Auld Lang Syne.
Earlier the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, reminded the audience at the Dome that they were celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
He said: "Let us thank God for him and for all that he has given to this country and to our world and let us pray for that world and its people."
Shortly after midnight phone lines across the UK were jammed as people tried to call friends and relatives to wish them a happy new millennium.
A BT spokesman said the network was extremely congested but no millennium bug problems had been detected. Mobile phone networks are also extremely busy.
Alison Webb, 28, from Birmingham, claimed the first baby of the millennium with a baby girl 15 seconds after midnight.
On a sadder note, one of the first deaths of the new millennium was a pedestrian knocked down by a police car near Newark, Nottinghamshire at 0300 GMT.
String of beacons
Earlier the Queen had lit the National Millennium Beacon, triggering a string of 10,000 beacons across the UK.
It was left to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to set London's millennium wheel in motion.
He fired a laser beam across the Thames to officially open the new 450ft London Eye landmark.
The event was marked by deafening fireworks and a fly-past by British Airways' flagship jet, Concorde.
Before pressing the button Mr Blair said: "To everyone here and throughout Britain, have a happy and wonderful New Year.
"From us all here in Britain to people throughout the world, we wish you peace, we wish you prosperity in the new millennium."
Dome organisers were forced to apologise for ticketing chaos before the opening ceremony.
Many guests were forced to queue throughout the day for their passes at Stratford and Charlton railway stations after the organisers failed to send them in time through the post.
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.
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