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New money, security concerns mark celebrations

(CNN) -- As the year 2002 arrived around the world, cash changed its appearance across Europe and the United States welcomed the New Year under tight security.

Sydney, Australia, took a shot at a pyrotechnic record by setting off the city's largest-ever fireworks display on the last night of the year. To welcome in the New Year, bells could be heard ringing from temples in Japan to Big Ben in London.

A new type of cash was a hot commodity across Europe as people lined up in freezing temperatures to get a jump on the most ambitious currency swap in history by getting the first new euros from automated teller machines.

The euro is now the common currency for more than 300 million people in 12 countries.

Fifty billion coins and 14.5 billion bank notes -- totaling 646 billion ($568 billion) -- became legal tender at midnight Monday from Finland in the north to Greece in the south.

The switch marked the end of national currency frontiers across Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Three European Union countries -- the UK, Sweden and Denmark -- have yet to sign up for the euro and are retaining their own currencies.

In New York, Mayor Rudy Giuliani performed his final act as the city's leader, overseeing the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square.

"You don't do this job of mayor of New York City without a great deal of passion and love for the people of the city," Guiliani said.

On his last day as mayor, Giuliani announced a new memorial for victims of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and said his proudest accomplishment "is restoring the spirit of the city."

The granite memorial will be built in Staten Island, across the bay from where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood. Names of the dead will be etched into the stone. Republican Michael Bloomberg was sworn in as mayor of New York City Monday morning, wearing a blue pinstripe suit and paying the 15-cent registration fee. He will become mayor at midnight.

A half-million revelers gathered in Times Square to watch the illuminated ball drop.

Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said there would be 6,700 police officers on the scene, including snipers on rooftops overlooking the square.

Pedestrians were funneled through checkpoints -- eight streets along Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Eighth Avenue -- where their handbags were searched and their bodies scanned with hand-held magnetometers.

No one was allowed to take large bags, backpacks, briefcases or even umbrellas into Times Square. As in prior years, alcohol was banned.

To reduce the threat of a bomb, mailboxes were removed and sewer manhole covers sealed -- a repeat of the millennium party precautions.

Bomb-sniffing dogs were on patrol, and some police officers carried radiation detectors.

President Bush said 2002 will be a "great year" for the United States, predicting the economy will rebound, the war on terrorism will forge ahead and the nation's newfound "culture of compassion" will flourish.

The country, he said, would remain on a higher state of alert in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"The American people realize we have a new culture and that is one of being vigilant," Bush told reporters.




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