Clintons to drop ball on New Year’s Eve at Times Square

December 31st, 2008 - 1:21 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Dec 30 (DPA) Former US President Bill Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, have been given the honour to push the button to drop the crystal ball ushering in the New Year at Times Square, news reports said Tuesday.The traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations at the landmark square will take place Thursday night under a forecast of very cold weather with snow showers that may dampen the hopes of hundreds of thousands of revellers seeking a good time.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he had selected the famous former first couple to push the ceremonial button at 11:59 p.m. Thursday night, allowing the huge crystal ball to descend a pole to close 2008 and open 2009.

Senator Clinton, a New York democrat and former US presidential candidate, has been nominated to become US secretary of state by President-elect Barack Obama.

“I can’t think of anyone I would rather stand at the crossroads of the world at the beginning of this new year than Bill and Hillary Clinton,” Bloomberg said.

“Both together and as individuals, senator and president Clinton have brought hope and opportunity to New York, to the nation, and to the world,” he said.

News reports said this year’s crystal ball is twice the size of the previous one. It is covered with 2,668 Waterford crystals, weighing nearly 12,000 pounds and measuring 12 feet in diameter. It is also 20 percent more energy efficient.

Bloomberg, who plans to run for a third, four-year term as mayor in 2009, said this week that a record number of 47 million people visited New York City in 2008, beating last year’s numbers by one million visitors.

Tourists spent an estimated $30 billion in 2008 while Wall Street was reeling under the financial crisis and the scandals of failed big investment conglomerates and banks. But the city’s tourism office said difficult times are ahead for the city that used to brag itself as the world’s financial capital.

“We all recognise that trees don’t grow to the sky forever and that 2009 is going to be a tougher year in every sector in this city,” said Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development. He was quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

“But the tourism sector will continue to grow in the long term,” Lieber said.

The city said more foreigners have visited New York in 2008, estimated at 9.8 million of the total of 47 million tourists.

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