300,000 on the Mall for the countdown

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1.3.00 - Irish Times

By Joe Carroll

WASHINGTON: An estimated 300,000 people gathered on the Mall for the millennium gala at the Lincoln Memorial and the countdown to midnight which triggered off a fireworks display at the Washington monument.

President Clinton, in his fourth speech of the day, called for Americans to welcome and embrace change in the new century. He cited the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and urged the nation to remain true to the enduring principles of "our freedom, our faith, our ceaseless pilgrimage towards the ideals of our founders".

Earlier, the President and Mrs Clinton hosted a millennium dinner at the White House for 360 guests representing the arts, science, entertainment, and donors who helped pay for the gala. The attendance included Bono and his wife, Ms Ali Hewson, Senator Edward Kennedy and his sister and former ambassador, Ms Jean Kennedy Smith.

Bono later sang at the gala concert at the Lincoln Memorial which also featured gospel and folk music, opera, jazz and rap and dancing. There was also a 20-minute film made by Steven Spielberg commemorating the achievements of the century. At the White House, Chelsea Clinton for the first time joined her parents in the receiving line. The President began the dinner with a toast and asked his guests to make a wish and he would do likewise. He spoke of "a better future that I hope every American will take a moment to imagine on this Millennium Eve".

At midnight, the Washington Monument was illuminated by a firework display as the date on the side of the 555-ft obelisk changed from 1999 to 2000. An even bigger firework display finished the celebrations an hour later. At the headquarters of the CIA, the FBI and the White House the centres set up to monitor any Y2K problems had little to report as the new century arrived without any major glitches. A computer failure at midnight Greenwich Mean Time cut communications with one of the Pentagon's spy satellites for about three hours but the world scarcely noticed.

Copyright 2000 The Irish Times. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 3, 2000 10:36 PM.

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