Sydney kicks off New Year celebrations: Worldwide New Year’s Eve countdowns began in Sydney, Australia with a dazzling display of fireworks.
Australia’s largest city was lit up with seven tonnes of celebratory explosives focused on the Harbour Bridge.
“They were absolutely fantastic,” said American visitor Murphy Robertson from Denver, after viewing the Aus$6 million (US$5.4 million) show which drew an estimated 1.5 million people to harbour vantage points, said reports.
“The Opera House was fantastic, but the thing that really got me was the sparks, the golden curtain of sparks going off the bridge,” he said.
A record three fireworks displays were set off – at 9pm, 10:30pm and midnight – as part of the spectacular show that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had promised would be “bigger than ever”, with brilliant colours flashing over Sydney Harbour.
Dubai is set to break the Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display, having pledged to set off over 400,000 fireworks. Kuwait had set the current mark in 2011 with an hour-long display of 77,282 fireworks, according to Channel News Asia.
Tonga, near the international dateline, was one of the first nations to welcome in the year 2014 by holding a prayer festival that culminated with a bamboo “cannon” fired into the air.
Antarctica was also one of the first places to celebrate the 2014 new year. The passengers and crew on a ship stuck in ice for a week and awaiting rescue rang in the New Year with their specially composed anthem.
From the top deck of the ship Akademik Shokalskiy, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition sang of “having fun doing science in Antarctica”, only to lament in the chorus the “bloody great shame we are still stuck here,” according to reports.
The cities across Asia will be next to bring in the New Year, with Hong Kong set for its biggest-ever countdown show.
Fireworks will be fired from skyscrapers and a line of barges one kilometre long in Victoria Harbour in a “wish upon a star” tourism board show.
In the Philippine areas devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, however, celebrations were muted.
In Tacloban, the worst hit area of the November 8 storm, officials were preparing a midnight fireworks display to try to raise spirits, despite the nearly 8,000 dead or missing.
In addition, aid agencies are organising free concerts or distributing food for the traditional New Year’s Eve dinner, said an AFP reporter said.
In Singapore, crowds will flock to the financial district for a spectacular fireworks show, while thousands of white spheres holding residents’ wishes for 2014 will be launched to bob on Marina Bay.
In Rio de Janeiro, 2.3 million people are expected to crowd Copacabana Beach for fireworks and pop music.
Other major countdown spectaculars around the world include shows that will light up Moscow’s Red Square, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and central London when Big Ben chimes midnight.
One million revellers are expected to gather in New York to celebrate the stroke of midnight and the traditional New Year’s Eve ball-drop over Times Square.