Glitter, kisses, cops gather for NY bash
New York - As many as a million people, monitored by a high-tech police presence, were expected late on Friday in New York's Times Square to watch the traditional drop of the New Year's crystal ball at the stroke of midnight.
The party is one of the biggest in the world to mark the start of 2011, and centres around the slow fall of a six ton, glittering ball comprising 32 256 LED lights and 2 688 Waterford crystals.
Municipal clean-up crews had only just enough time ahead of this year's celebration to move out piles of snow left over from a blizzard that struck the city on Monday, but conditions overnight are expected to be mild.
Temperatures will certainly shoot up at midnight when mass kissing starts with a little help from Nivea, a sponsor, which is donating 30 000 samples of lip balm. And in the ultimate display of public affection, two Marine Corps reservists are to exchange vows after winning the "Get Married in Times Square" competition.
Of course it won't be all love and kisses. New York police have promised to turn out in force for the event, with a special focus on preventing terrorist attacks.
Police commissioner Raymond Kelly said that although there are "no specific threats against the city on New Year's Eve, any time large numbers of people come together, we put in our counterterrorism overlay".
Uniformed police will be backed up by a heavy undercover presence, as well as helicopters and sharpshooters on surrounding buildings. Police will be equipped with radiation detection devices, both at checkpoints for entering Times Square and in among the crowds.
"We have several thousand radiation detectors that are deployed with our officers," Kelly told a pre-celebration news conference.
"We have large radiation detection equipment that we deploy on vehicles. We actually have it on all our harbor launches in the water, so we're certainly very sensitive to that issue."
US security forces have been on high alert for weeks over fears of a terrorist attack during the Christmas and New Year's season, and New York is always considered a prime target.
In May, a US-Pakistani man tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square - and the bomber "wasn't on anybody's radar screen", Kelly told CBS television.
"This is the type of thing that concerns us. We're doing everything we reasonably can do to protect the city but there's a lot of unknowns out there," he said.