World to welcome in New Year with a bang

Posted at 12/31/2012 12:03 PM | Updated as of 12/31/2012 3:51 PM

SYDNEY (2nd UPDATE) – Sydney will Monday kick off a wave of dazzling firework displays welcoming in 2013, from Dubai to Moscow and London, with long-isolated Yangon joining the global pyrotechnics for the first time.

Australia's famous harbor city will usher in the New Year with a Aus$6.6 (US$6.9) million display curated by pop icon Kylie Minogue who designed the color 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 tons 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 color their screens. Held aloft, en masse, the devices will create their own show along the shore.

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

Revelers in New York will celebrate the stroke of midnight with the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop over Times Square, where South Korean Internet and pop sensation Psy will join a host of American music stars.

Celebrations in the US were overshadowed by the ever-approaching "fiscal cliff," a punishing package of government spending cuts and tax hikes due to kick in on January 1.

A compromise remains elusive and the repercussions of failure uncertain.

The mayor of Caracas cancelled the city's traditional end-of-year concert in Bolivar Square, instead asking Venezuelans to pray at home for ailing President Hugo Chavez, who suffered a new setback after cancer surgery in Cuba.

In Rio de Janeiro, authorities have promised a bumper 16-minute, 24-tonne display opposite Copacabana Beach while in Germany, fireworks will cap a 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.

In Paris, however, the authorities issued a reminder that all fireworks are officially banned for the night. The crowds that gather on the Champs-Elysees and around the Eiffel Tower will have to make do without any display.

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

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 and police had to tape the muzzles of their service firearms shut to prevent them joining the revelry; the weapons will be tested for residue after the festivities.

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 in the hit that saw Psy become a household name, there will be fireworks, concerts and street parties.

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 program, 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.

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