December 31, 1999: The world prepares to enter a new millennium

On this day in 1999, the people of Britain joined billions around the world in preparing for a spectacular celebration of the new millennium.

Despite the Gregorian calendar officially registering the start of the third millennium as occurring on the first day of 2001, most of the developed world took the popular view that it would commence at the dawning of the year 2000.

In the UK, a huge party featuring a firework display, music, fairground attractions and street entertainers was planned on the banks of the River Thames, while the Queen was to travel along the river to open the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, recently completed at the cost of £758 million.

Fireworks displays were readied in Manchester, Birmingham and many other major cities, while huge beacons were prepared for lighting in Scotland (on Ben Nevis), Wales and Northern Ireland.

In major world cities, millions were expected to join in the party atmosphere with more fireworks, municipal gatherings and concerts.

The first global celebration of the start of 2000 began at 10:00 GMT in the Chatham Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Kiribati in the Pacific, whilst Samoans were among the last to celebrate the commencement of the new millennium some 25 hours later.

[Also on this day: December 31, 1935 - Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly]