World rings in 2024 after war, bots and Barbie

By: Agence France Presse January 01,2024 - 08:51 AM

World rings in 2024 after war, bots and Barbie. Fireworks light up the sky by the landmark Burj al-Arab luxury hotel tower in Dubai at midnight on new year's eve on January 1, 2024. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Fireworks light up the sky by the landmark Burj al-Arab luxury hotel tower in Dubai at midnight on new year’s eve on January 1, 2024. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Jubilant crowds bid farewell on Sunday to the hottest year on record, closing a turbulent 12 months marked by clever chatbots, climate crises and devastating wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Much of the world’s population — now more than eight billion — is hoping to shake off high living costs and global tumult in 2024, which will bring elections concerning half the world’s population and the Paris Olympics.

In Sydney, the self-proclaimed “New Year’s capital of the world”, more than a million partygoers packed around the harbour, with city officials and police warning that all vantage points were full.

Sydneysiders gathered through the day at prominent sites, defying uncharacteristically dank weather, and were not disappointed when the Harbour Bridge and other landmarks were garlanded in light and colour by eight tonnes of fireworks.

Pyrotechnics also illuminated the skies in Auckland, Hong Kong, Manila and Indonesia.

READ: World prepares to ring in 2024

World rings in 2024 after war, bots and Barbie. Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House (L) during New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney on January 1, 2024. (Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP)

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House (L) during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney on January 1, 2024. (Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP)

Nudist bathers wearing Santa hats waded into the mild Mediterranean waters of southern France while revellers munched on skewers of meat and danced in the streets in traditional end-of-year celebrations in Greece’s Thessaloniki.

The last 12 months brought “Barbieheimer” to the box office, a proliferation of human-seeming artificial intelligence tools, and a world-first whole-eye transplant.

India outgrew China as the world’s most populous country, and then became the first nation to land an unmanned craft on the Moon’s south pole.

It was also the hottest year since records began in 1880, with a spate of climate-fuelled disasters striking across the world.

Fans bade adieu to “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Tina Turner, “Friends” actor Matthew Perry, hell-raising Anglo-Irish songsmith Shane MacGowan, jazz composer and band leader Carla Bley and master dystopian novelist Cormac McCarthy.

New Year. In photo is the sun setting on Gaza.

The sun sets over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 31, 2023. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

READ: Israelis and Palestinians end dark year, with no end in sight to war


Perhaps more than anything, 2023 will be remembered for war in the Middle East, after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 raids on southern Israel and Israel’s ferocious reprisals on Gaza.

The United Nations estimates that almost two million Gazans have been displaced since Israel’s siege began, or about 85 percent of the peacetime population.

With once-bustling Gaza City neighbourhoods reduced to rubble, there were few places left to mark the new year — and fewer loved ones to celebrate with.

“It was a black year full of tragedies,” said 37-year-old Abed Akkawi, who fled the city with his wife and three children to a UN shelter in Rafah, southern Gaza.

“God willing this war will end, the new year will be a better one, and we will be able to return to our homes and rebuild them, or even live in a tent on the rubble,” he told AFP.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, 24-year-old Ran Stahl preferred to work his shift at a wine bar during New Year’s Eve, saying he didn’t have the heart to celebrate.

“The minute I start dancing, the sadness and mourning come back”, said Stahl, whose friend died at the trance music festival during Hamas’s October 7 attack

There was hope in Ukraine, where Russia’s invasion grinds towards its second anniversary.

“Victory! We are waiting for it and believe that Ukraine will win,” said Tetiana Shostka, 42, as air raid sirens blared in Kyiv.


A couple kisses next to a Christmas tree during a celebration of the New Year’s eve, amid ongoing Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, in front of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine December 31, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine-Russia war

Some in Vladimir Putin’s Russia are also weary of the conflict.

“In the new year I would like the war to end, a new president, and a return to normal life,” said 55-year-old theatre decorator and Moscow resident Zoya Karpova.

But Putin himself remained defiant in his New Year’s Eve address, vowing that Russia “will never back down” and praising front-line troops.

Putin is already Russia’s longest-tenured leader since Joseph Stalin and will again be on the ballot for a March election, though few expect it to be fully free or fair.

In Rome, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of conflicts around the globe, citing Ukrainians, Palestinians and Israelis, the people of Sudan and the “martyred Rohingya” of Myanmar.

“At the end of a year, have the courage to ask how many lives have been torn apart in armed conflicts, how many deaths?” the 87-year-old pontiff said after his Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square.

“And how much destruction, how much suffering, how much poverty? Those who have an interest in these conflicts, listen to the voice of conscience.”

New Year. Trump in photo.

FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah, Florida, U.S. November 8, 2023. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

To the polls

Several pivotal elections are scheduled in 2024, with the political fate of more than four billion people to be decided in contests that will shape Britain, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela and a host of other nations.

In his televised New Year’s address, French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Parliament elections in June would present “a decisive choice” between “the continuation of Europe, or blocking it” at a time when war is at Europe’s doorstep in Ukraine.

But one election in particular promises global consequences.

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden, 81, and Republican Donald Trump, 77, appear set for a November rerun of their divisive 2020 presidential contest.

As the incumbent, Biden has at times appeared to show his advancing age and even his supporters worry about the toll of another bruising four years in office.

There are at least as many concerns about a Trump return.

He faces prosecution on several counts and 2024 could determine whether the bombastic self-proclaimed billionaire goes to the Oval Office or jail.

New Year. In photo is Denmark's Queen Margrethe.

FILE PHOTO: Denmark’s Queen Margrethe attends a parade of the Royal Life Guards in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 15, 2023. Ritzau Scanpix/Ida Marie Odgaard via REUTERS/File Photo

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II abdicates

Denmark’s popular Queen Margrethe II, Europe’s longest-serving monarch, chose her New Year’s Eve address to announce her coming abdication.

The 83-year-old monarch will step down in favour of her son, Crown Prince Frederik, after 52 years on the throne.

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TAGS: 2024, Gaza, New Year, Ukraine, wars, world

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