World steps into 2023 after turbulent year

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The world’s eight billion people Sunday ushered in 2023, bidding farewell to a turbulent 12 months marked by war in Europe, stinging price rises, Lionel Messi’s World Cup glory and the deaths of Queen Elizabeth, Pele and former pope Benedict.

Many were ready to set aside pinched budgets and a virus that is increasingly forgotten but not gone, and embrace a party atmosphere on New Year’s Eve after a few pandemic-dampened years.

In New York, confetti rained down on crowds after the famous ball drop in Times Square, a tradition that dates back to 1907, with visitors from across the world waiting for hours in the chilly rain to take part.

Throngs of people packed Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach — up to two million were expected — for music and fireworks, without the coronavirus safety measures of the past few years.

The festivities came only hours before Brazil inaugurates new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Sunday, following his razor-thin win in October polls.

After the widely criticized pandemic policies of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, Copacabana partygoer Ana Carolina Rodrigues — wearing the evening’s traditional white — says she hopes 2023 brings a new government that “looks more at people’s health.”

Across the Atlantic, Parisians — and a “normal” amount of tourists, comparable to 2018 or 2019, according to officials — took the opportunity to crowd together shoulder-to-shoulder for a fireworks show along the Champs-Elysees.

Police said about a million people showed up for the celebration, where children in pushchairs and partiers with champagne were equally visible.

“We’re here for the ambiance, to have a good time and to be together,” said 19-year-old student Ilyes Hachelef. “And it’s beautiful!”

Hours earlier, Sydney became one of the first major cities to ring in 2023, restaking its claim as the “New Year’s Eve capital of the world” after two years of lockdowns and coronavirus-muted festivities with a fireworks display over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

For some, 2022 was a year of Wordle, the Great Resignation, a new Taylor Swift album, an Oscar slap and billionaire meltdowns.

It also saw the deaths of Queen Elizabeth II, Brazilian football icon Pele, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jiang Zemin and Shinzo Abe. Former pope Benedict XVI also died on New Year’s Eve.

The global population surpassed the historic milestone of eight billion people in November. But 2022 is most likely to be remembered for armed conflict returning to Europe — a continent that was the crucible of two world wars.—INP