World Prepares to Celebrate the Millennium
Expect huge parties and blatant exploitation. Expect plastic trinkets and time capsules. Expect soothsayers and doomsayers.Skip to next paragraph
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But in 653 days, when celebrations in anticipation of the 3rd millennium begin, you can also expect the results of visionary thinking. Throughout the Western world, an amazing array of mega-events and futuristic projects will offer the best of humankind's imagination and wisdom in stepping into the next century.
Rather than focusing on one night, many public and private programs are seeking a longer-term commitment to spiritual or cultural renewal. They focus on specific ways to address the unresolved issues of humanity or spur creativity through art and music.
"Dec. 31, l999, will be a wild night," says Philip Bogdonoff, vice president of the Millennium Institute in Arlington, Va. "But it's a time unique in human history, and we can use it as an opportunity to reflect about who we are and where we go."
The year 2000 is in fact an arbitrary calendar date, a social agreement rooted in Christianity. So far, the implications of the millennium for much of the world seem to hover between the urge to celebrate and the motivation to look ahead with responsibility for humanity. A small, vocal fellowship of doom also explores suspected apocalyptic endings, just as in previous changes of century.
But the many unifying meetings and religious events being planned - such as the Third Parliament of the World's Religions meeting in December 1999 in Capetown, South Africa - have brought depth to the celebration.
"Children will be asking us in 2020 or 2042, what did you do at the turn of the millennium?" says Hillel Schwartz, a senior fellow at the Millennium Institute, "And if you say I watched the fireworks on TV, this won't do it for them. But if you can point out the window at the clean river or the clean air, and say you helped get this in motion in 2000, it will be significant to them."
Telecommunications will play a big part in the millennium. At least three international TV broadcasts will link dozens of countries. The Millennium Day Broadcast Consortium of 50 countries wants to begin telecasting from space where astronauts will first see the sun in the first second of 2000.
Back on Earth, several groups are planning world tours on bicycles. The Great Millennium Peace Ride, planned to begin this August, brings together 500 bicyclists from 197 countries, to finish in Sydney, Australia, on Jan. 1, 2000.
The year-long Odyssey 2000 tour begins in Los Angeles on Jan. 1, 2000. For $36,000, nearly 250 bicyclists have signed on. Hundreds are on a waiting list. "It's a chance to do something unforgettable and fabulous in the millennium," says Brit-Simone Sutter, an organizer of the trip.
At the same time, unlike huge expositions of the past, the millennium will not have a collection of massive architectural statements. Instead some cities, like Rome and London, are funding extensive restorations to preserve the past. New architecture projects simply haven't been planned. "People in the world are preoccupied with other matters like the population doubling and what will happen by 2050," says Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund in New York.