World sparkles for New Year

2012-12-31 09:05

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Sydney will Monday kick off a wave of dazzling firework displays welcoming in 2013 from Dubai to Paris and London, with long-isolated Yangon joining the global pyrotechnics for the first time.

Australia's famous harbour city will usher in the New Year with a Aus$6.6 million display (US$6.9 million / R58.4-million) curated by pop icon Kylie Minogue who designed the colour scheme and soundtrack.

"Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations are world-famous and reach over a billion people - not just because we have the first major display for 2013, but because it's the best," said the city's lord mayor Clover Moore.

City officials are expecting more than 1.5 million people to crowd the waterfront to watch the seven tonnes of fireworks go up, including crackers launched from jet-skis and a show-stopping finale on the Harbour Bridge.

This year sees an interactive twist with smartphone users able to download an app which will colour their screens. Held aloft, en masse, the devices will create their own show along the shore.

Major fireworks will light up the Thames in London, Moscow's Red Square and Kremlin, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, as well as central Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Stockholm, Amsterdam and cities across China.

Revellers in New York will celebrate the stroke of midnight with the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop over Times Square.

In Rio de Janeiro, authorities have promised a bumper 16-minute, 24-tonne display opposite Copacabana Beach and fireworks will cap a mammoth party at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate featuring the Pet Shop Boys, Bonnie Tyler and Blue.

Vying to become a permanent fixture on the planetary map of New Year celebrations, the Gulf city state of Dubai is planning a lavish gala at the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.

Fireworks will engulf the spike-like tower, accompanied by a soundtrack performed live by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Some 50,000 people are also expected to flock to the revered golden Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon for the Myanmar capital's first public countdown with fireworks, seen as further evidence of opening up after decades of junta rule.

Organisers had to campaign for months to get permission for the event from the military regime, which has embarked on dramatic reforms since President Thein Sein took office last year.

Hundreds of political prisoners have been released and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament after almost two decades of house arrest.

In regions devastated by Typhoon Bopha which hit the southern Philippines in early December killing at least 1,067 people, many survivors said food, work and permanent shelter topped their priorities for the New Year.

Authorities in the capital Manila are bracing for the annual rush of injuries as families celebrate with do-it-yourself firework displays and shoot celebratory bullets into the air. Hospitals were put on high alert.

Some 171 Filipinos have already been wounded since the Christmas weekend including one poisoned after eating a firework.

Seoul will usher in 2013 with a ritual ringing of the city's 15th-century bronze bell 33 times, reflecting the ancient practice of marking a new year.

Elsewhere in the South Korean capital, including the glitzy Gangnam district made famous by YouTube sensation Psy, there will be fireworks, concerts and street parties. Psy himself will be performing in New York.

Millions of well-wishers will visit temples and shrines in Japan for "ninen-mairi" two-year prayers and gather at family homes to feast on soba noodles and watch the New Year variety show "Kohaku Uta Gassen" or the Red and White Song Contest.

Up to 40 percent of Japan's TV audience watch the four-hour programme, which features established acts and J-Pop stars.

Popular South Korean performers were left out of this year's line-up amid territorial frictions with Seoul, though taxpayer-funded broadcaster NHK insisted politics had played no part in the selection of performers.

- Sapa-AFP
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