A 600-metre serpent, ten giant hillbillies, 2005 balloons and 3.5 tonnes of fireworks, as well as 180 performers have all helped launch Cork's year as European Capital of Culture.

More than 80,000 people flocked to the city centre for a massive carnival after President Mary McAleese formally opened the year at a civic ceremony at City Hall.

The city centre was closed off to traffic as some 180 performers from all over the world brought the streets to life at ten individual stages from Patrick Street to Grand Parade.

The afternoon finished with a spectacular fireworks display and a theatrical performance on the River Lee by Waterford Spraoi.