Sydney kicks off global 2019 parties with dazzling spectacle

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s largest city Sydney put on its biggest-ever fireworks display in a spectacular welcome to the New Year, kicking off a wave of celebrations for billions around the world.

A record amount of pyrotechnics as well as new fireworks effects and colours lit up the city’s skyline for 12 minutes and dazzled the more than 1.5 million spectators who packed the harbour front and parks.

An earlier thunderstorm did not dampen the spirits of revellers who camped out at vantage points, some since the early hours of the morning.

To mark the international year of indigenous languages in 2019, the harbour also hosted a ceremony celebrating Aboriginal heritage that included animations projected onto the bridge’s pylons.

The party atmosphere will sweep across major cities in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas as the clock ticks past midnight.

A strong police presence has become a key element of the festivities, to protect crowds that could be targetted in terror and vehicle attacks.

Hong Kong: Glittering fireworks sent skyward from five barges floating in Victoria Harbour in a 10-minute display watched by 300,000 people on the shore.

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney yesterday night. – PHOTOS: AP
Workers in New York’s Times Square perform a test of the New Year’s Eve ball that will be lit and sent up a 130-foot pole atop One Times Square to mark the start of the 2019 New Year

Jakarta: Hundreds of couples tied the knot in a free mass wedding, as those in the tsunami-hit Banten province, where affected towns were popular holiday destinations, have been told to cancel party plans to show respect for the victims.

Tokyo: Japanese flocked to temples to ring in the New Year, while US boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr took on local kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a bout staged outside Tokyo.

Moscow: Concerts and light shows will be held across the city’s parks and more than 1,000 ice rinks have been opened for merrymakers.

Paris: A fireworks display and sound and light show under the theme ‘fraternity’ is set to go ahead on the Champs-Elysees despite plans for further ‘yellow vest’ anti-government protests at the famed avenue.

Berlin: Music lovers will party at a concert at the Brandenburg Gate, but a popular German tradition of setting off fireworks to mark the occasion has been banned in some other cities over safety concerns.

London: Britain’s capital will usher in the New Year by celebrating its relationship with Europe amid turmoil over the Brexit referendum vote to leave the EU, with the fireworks display at the London Eye to feature music from the continent’s artistes.

Edinburgh: The Scottish capital’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations will also take on a pro-European theme ahead of the year in which Britain is due to exit the union.

As the world parties, many will also look forward to 2019 and wonder whether the turmoil witnessed during the previous year will spill over into the next.