London disappoints as revellers greet New Year

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Britain was today waking up to the first day of 2003 after millions of revellers saw in the New Year at parties across the country.

Britain was today waking up to the first day of 2003 after millions of revellers saw in the New Year at parties across the country.

But despite official celebrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and other British cities, London was criticised for not having any organised events.

As other "world cities" like Sydney and New York celebrated with fireworks displays, the capital's traditional focal point, Trafalgar Square, remained empty, quiet and heavily-guarded.

Hundreds of revellers wandered aimlessly around Nelson's Column in the square, which is currently being pedestrianised, as 2003 approached.

Police, some on horseback, patrolled the area while a perimeter fence ensured it remained a no-go zone.

Two Australian tourists from Sydney who turned up at Trafalgar Square described the British capital's celebrations as "dull" while Britons expressed their disappointment.

One of them, Elizabeth Tarry, 16, said: "I thought there would be swarms of people here.

"I expected a very big party with heaps of people everywhere and I expected to go to Trafalgar Square. We had such great hopes of this city but there's absolutely nothing."

Roy Baker, 30, travelled from Maidstone in Kent with a friend to witness the celebrations and described what he found as "terrible".

He said: "I'm so disappointed. They made all this effort to board over Parliament Square but they haven't put anything on for people. There's no light show, no music, no nothing."

Mr Baker, who was searched five times by police during his journey from Leicester Square to Whitehall, added: "We've been planning this for over a month and so far it's been a real kick in the teeth.

"We expected something to be going on and in return we got a Do It Yourself celebration."

David Silk, 23, a civil servant from Maida Vale, said: "I don't mind Trafalgar Square being switched off but something should have been organised for the largest capital in the world.

"It doesn't seem to be very well co-ordinated and it's up to someone like the Mayor to sort it out. For me, it's an anticlimax."

His girlfriend Gemma Todd, also 23, added: "This is the first time I had been in London for New Year and I expected more to be happening.

"I just wanted there to be something going on that we could join in with and although there is a bit of an atmosphere it's not really what I expected."

Despite the lack of official events, Westminster City Council workers spent five and a half hours clearing away 150 tonnes of rubbish from central London and the West End.

The debris included 20 tonnes of glass and six tonnes of champagne bottles.

Scotland Yard said it estimated 60,000 people were on the streets in central London at the stroke of midnight.

Crowds reached 20,000 in Parliament Square, 14,000 in Trafalgar Square and 6,000 in Leicester Square.

At least 51 people were arrested, mainly for drunkenness and public order offences.

In Scotland, thousands thronged Princes Street in Edinburgh for the ticket-only traditional Hogmanay event.

Fireworks were set off in the grounds of the city's castle at the stroke of midnight to mark the start of the new year.

In the Welsh capital, Cardiff, local children took part in an Arctic-themed lantern parade through the city's streets.

The event, which was part of the Calennig Festival and was attended by an estimated 35,000 people, culminated in a fireworks display at Cardiff castle.

Other high-profile events were held in Newcastle and Gateshead, where an estimated 100,000 revellers stood on both banks of the River Tyne.

The celebrations, which organisers claimed were the "biggest and best in Britain", were designed to celebrate the joint bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson led the countdown to midnight, which was the culmination of a day of celebrations.