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January 1, 2011

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Welcoming 2011, remembering 2010

TENS of thousands of local residents and tourists braved freezing temperatures last night to welcome in the New Year across Shanghai.

As clocks struck midnight, crowds gathered for countdown events at the World Expo site, Xintiandi and Longhua Temple wished each other Happy New Year - offering best wishes and hopes for good luck in 2011.

As the city bid farewell to 2010 and reflected on the year just gone, it was with a mixture of pride, joy and sorrow.

The past 12 months saw a new high point in Shanghai's history, with the stunning success of the World Expo.

The six-month run brought together people from around the world, showcased state-of-the-art technology and attracted more than 70 million visitors from across the globe, an Expo record.

But the city will also look back on 2010 as a year marred by tragedy, which saw 58 people killed and 71 injured when an inferno swept through a residential high-rise block on Jiaozhou Road on November 15.

Safety concerns raised by the blaze led to the cancellation of other New Year's Eve celebrations in the city.

Last night more than 3,000 people - Expo workers and volunteers and performers - helped Shanghai welcome 2011 in synchronized fashion when they formed the shape of a clock along the Huangpu River Expo site, holding glow sticks that "ticked" second by second toward the stroke of midnight.

Another highlight saw 11 couples who fell in love during the Expo event sing love songs and express best wishes during the countdown.

At the same time, the city's Xintiandi entertainment hub presented its 2011 New Year countdown party at Taipingqiao Lake.

The event, taking the theme of "A World Celebration from the Heart," included Chinese-American singer Leehom Wang, Taiwan singer Dick and Cowboy, dancing queen Landy Wen and "China's Got Talent" champion Liu Wei.

Wang and Liu sang the duet "Hand in Hand" on a translucent crystal piano, while Wen performed some of her hottest dance hits - setting temperatures rising, even though the mercury was dipping below zero.

Reveller Lee Chung-chi, from Taiwan, was bringing in new year in Xintiandi for the third year in row. "The great success of the Expo impressed me most during the past months," said Lee. Looking ahead, he added: "I'm newly married and hope to have a baby with my wife this year."

Li Wei, one of more than 8,000 partygoers in Xintiandi, said 2010 had been a good year for him as he had finally met his dream girl and said they plan to marry this year.

Outside Longhua Temple, several hundred people gathered to ring the temple bell and sign a signature wall to pray for good luck in 2011. Zhao Cheng, the temple abbot, said: "We hope all people can have a new start."

The annual bell ringing ceremony began at 11pm, and on the stroke of midnight it had rung 108 times - a number which is believed to drive away worries and troubles.

Ellery Cooper of Ireland, 31, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that the Expo had been fantastic - beyond all his expectations.

For 2011, Cooper's wish is simple. "My baby will be born in March, and I just want to wish him or her good health," he said.

Lin Feng, a local student, said the Jiaozhou Road inferno had overshadowed other events. Reflecting on Shanghai residents coming together to offer each other comfort in the aftermath of the blaze, Lin said simply: "I was touched."


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