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New Year's in Times Square an endurance contest

NEW YORK — Crowds jammed Times Square on Tuesday to ring in 2014, braving bone-chilling cold and ultra-tight security for the chance to see Miley Cyrus, a final countdown from a U.S. Supreme Court justice and the drop of the shimmering crystal ball.

The sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing humanity that filled the Crossroads of the World was part celebration, part endurance sport because post-Sept. 11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, no warmth and no place to go to the bathroom.

"We've got adult diapers. We're wearing them right now," said teenager Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City's suburbs to experience the event for the first time. They entered their corral at 10 a.m. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold, they did a lot of jumping in place.

"Every time I say, it's the last. But then I come back," said Yasmina Merrir, a Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.

She was also fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommends vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.

"At a point," she said, "your brain is not working anymore."

New York's midnight celebration came as millions of people welcomed the new year in cities around the world, including jubilant events in London, where the fireworks came packed with edible confetti, and Dubai, which attempted to stage the world's largest fireworks display.

Brianna Becerril, a singer and songwriter from Chino, Calif., persuaded her grandparents to join her at Times Square. As evening fell, they huddled together for warmth under big, furry hats, dined on cold chicken nuggets and drank nothing so they wouldn't have to leave to find a toilet.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience!" Becerril said.

"Once in a lifetime for me, for sure. I mean, if I even survive. I can't wait to get out of here," said her smiling grandfather, Jerry Bender. But, he said, he was enjoying getting to know their neighbors in the pen, many of whom hailed from distant countries.

Even when she lived in Algeria in North Africa, Merrir said, she knew that Times Square was the place the world celebrated best on New Year's Eve.

"It's Times Square! It's the ball!" she said. "The fireworks may be better in Dubai, or in London, but this is extra special."

On the other side of the Atlantic, Britain welcomed 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. For those in London, the event offered the opportunity to taste the fireworks.

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