Thousands of entertainers and performers welcomed 2008 singing, dancing and carnival floats in London's New Year's Day Parade.
The party carried on in the British capital just hours after the last stragglers from the New Year's Eve fireworks on the River Thames stumbled their way home from the city centre.
AdvertisementThe 22nd annual parade featured marching bands, dancing troupes, carnival queens and performers from as far afield as Hawaii.
"There were massive, massive crowds lining the streets. We estimate that there were around 475,000 people watching in total," said event spokesman Dan Kirkby.
"The parade is shown globally on television and is a big boost for London -- it is playing an increasing role as a shop window for tourists deciding whether to book a trip here."
London's Metropolitan Police did not have an official attendance estimate. However, police sources said the organisers' claim seemed over-optimistic.
In a New Year message to the city, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "I have lived in the capital for many years now and have seen for myself Londoners' good humour, vitality and passion for life that affects everyone who comes here.
"London's diverse communities and cultures are what bind the city together. In the last 12 months alone I have personally witnessed here in London some of the best international festivals, concerts and exhibitions that have been staged anywhere in the world."
The Metropolitan Police said 700,000 people turned out to watch the fireworks display at the stroke of midnight, which saw the London Eye observation wheel lit up by a 10-minute salvo of pyrotechnics.
"What used to be a relatively low-key, spontaneous night is now a world-class event that attracts thousands and thousands of people," said Superintendent Andy Tarrant.
The crowds were mainly good-humoured, he added.
There were 120 arrests, largely for drunken behaviour and public order offences.
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