Sydney kicks off global New Year party


SMH, 31-12-2010 17:49:06


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Sydney’s Harbour Bridge exploded in a spectacular blaze of New Year fireworks Friday as people around the globe began welcoming 2011 with a glittering array of parties.

 

Au New YearAu New Year

 

 

A fiery waterfall plunged from the landmark Australian structure as seven tonnes of fireworks ignited in the night sky, thrilling 1.5 million people crammed on the city’s foreshore.

 

 

Au New Year

 

 

The celebrations follow devastating floods that have hit 200,000 in the country’s northeast, while extreme heat prompted wildfire warnings around Melbourne and Adelaide.

 

 

Au New Year

Au New Year

Au New Year

 

 

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Earlier the 6,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, just east of the international dateline, were the first to see in the new year, while New Zealand’s Auckland also marked the occasion with fireworks.

 

In Europe, crowds were set to throng landmarks like London’s Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, following a big freeze that paralysed travel and cut power and water supplies for tens of thousands.

 

And New York workers were scrambling to plough snow out of Times Square for the famous New Year countdown, after a blizzard dumped 32 inches (80 centimetres) on the city and surrounding areas.

 

Party-goers carrying blankets and camping equipment began descending on Sydney harbour more than 12 hours before the main fireworks display, with new arrivals turned away as early as 3:00 pm (0400 GMT).

 

"It’s absolutely beautiful," said Shirley Marlin, as she watched the pyrotechnics, while her husband, Ron, added: "We’re very, very lucky to have this harbour."

 

In New Zealand’s Christchurch, hit by a powerful earthquake in September, officials only approved celebrations after late checks and modifications, including removing the city cathedral’s crucifix in case it fell on revellers.

 

In Asia, about 400,000 were expected at a glittering fireworks-and-laser display along neon-lit Hong Kong’s harbour, while millions of Japanese will visit Shinto shrines to "purify" themselves.

 

Although Lunar New Year is a much bigger event in the continent, thousands will brave Beijing’s cold for the countdown at an upmarket shopping centre, while about 7,000 were expected at a kite-flying event in central Shanghai.

 

Seoul was to observe Buddhist tradition with a bell at Bosingak traditional pavilion rung 33 times by 11 civilian delegates in turn, watched by up to 100,000 revellers.

 

Midnight marks the beginning of year 100 on Taiwan’s calendar, and was to be celebrated with Taipei’s biggest ever New Year fireworks costing 60 million Taiwan US dollars (two million US) and a concert by pop idols.

 

Thousands of people will jam Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake for midnight, while the "Bangkok Countdown" outside a glitzy mall -- where major anti-government protests took place this year -- is the centrepiece of Thailand’s celebrations.

 

In Myanmar, democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, released this year after more than seven years of house arrest, called for the country’s people "to struggle together with new strengths, new force and new words in the auspicious new year".

 

Revellers in Indian financial and entertainment capital Mumbai -- scene of a 2008 attack that killed 166 people -- were given the go-ahead to party through the night, despite intelligence about a possible New Year militant strike.

 

Meanwhile 250,000 people will throng the banks of London’s River Thames to hear Big Ben chime the last midnight of 2010, the traditional sound of the British New Year.

 

Millions of others will crowd landmarks like Rome’s Colosseum and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, as well as Paris’s Champs Elysees and the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

Earlier, organisers were forced to cancel a giant January 1 snowball fight in Berlin after 8,000 signed up, while in New York this week, people wrote down and shredded bad memories of 2010 in Times Square for "Good Riddance Day".

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