Thousands of revelers took to the streets in New Zealand – the first major country to see in 2011.
Auckland rang in the midnight with explosions of red, gold and white bursting over the Sky Tower early Saturday as tens of thousands shouted, danced and sang in the streets below.
Two hours later, in Australia, crowds gathered in Sydney to watch what is hailed as the biggest New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
In Sydney, about 1.5 million people came out with blankets and camping equipment ahead of the seven-tonne fireworks display above the Harbour Bridge. Crowds began arriving more than 12 hours before the main display, with new visitors turned away as early as 1500 (0400 GMT), the Associated Press news agency reports.
“We know how to party on new year back home, but Sydney is a bigger and better party than anywhere else,” Marcio Motta, a 26-year-old spectator from Brazil, told the Press Association. (BBC)
“Stunning, beautiful,” said Cinthya Romo, 32, a Sydney-based interpreter from Chile who watched the fireworks show from the Opera House. (CBC)
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour to watch fireworks explode from the roofs of 10 of the city’s most famous buildings. Shoppers bustled among the glittering malls and hotels on both sides of the harbour as they waited for the midnight countdown in a night of cool, clear weather.
At Japan’s Zojoji temple in central Tokyo, founded in 1393, monks chanted as thousands packed in to count down until midnight. Revelers released a mass of silver balloons carrying notes with their hopes for the future, as the temple’s giant 15-ton bell rang in the background.
This year, meanwhile, marks the first time Vietnam’s capital, Hanol, officially celebrates the new year. In previous years, the city authorities have focused on Tet, the holiday marking the lunar new year. They celebrate the new year with a countdown blowout, complete with a light show and foreign DJs in front of the city’s elegant French colonial-style opera house.
In the Philippines, safety officials have urged caution after powerful firecrackers injured at least 245 people in recent days. According to tradition, many believe noisy celebrations drive away evil and misfortune. Health Secretary Enrique Ona urged safety during Friday’s celebrations, saying he feared up to 1,000 injuries.
In Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, fireworks will form the shape of a dragon spiraling up the tallest skyscraper.
This year’s display is due to be the country’s biggest ever, costing $2m, to mark the beginning of year 100 on the Taiwan calendar.
In Burma, however, the military government has banned all fireworks and said severe action would be taken against anyone using them.
Political activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in November, called for the Burmese people “to struggle together with new strengths, new force and new words in the auspicious new year.” (BBC)
The tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati was the first to welcome in the new year at 1000 GMT. The religious island nation was set to mark the event with church and village services.
In Europe, many people will be partying simply to forget their economic woes after a year that saw Greece and Ireland needing financial bailouts and others, such as Spain and Portugal, battling speculation that they will need similar aid.
In London, thousands will witness a musical and firework display at the 135-metre high London Eye, located on the southern banks of the Thames River. The Eye, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, lies almost opposite the Big Ben clock tower at Parliament that will chime in 2011.
If not at home or at private parties, Spaniards traditionally gather in their main town squares to eat 12 grapes one by one as the bell in the square marks the countdown to 2011.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year message that Europe is dealing with a major test and must strengthen the euro, even as she celebrated Germany’s emergence from the economic crisis, powered by strong exports. Merkel said in her televised message being broadcast Friday that “it was a good year for Germany.” (The Star)
North America’s first 2011 celebrations will be in Newfoundland and Labrador.
South of the border in New York City, about one million blizzard-hardened revelers are expected to cram into midtown Manhattan for the traditional midnight ball drop at Time Square.
The municipal authorities and warmer weather have combined to clear the streets following the snowstorm which blanketed the city this week.
With 32,256 LED lights and 2,688 Waterford crystals, the four-metre wide Time Square ball had a picture-perfect test run on Thursday. The ball weighs 11,875 pounds and has a diameter of 12 feet. By mixing red, blue, green and white light elements, the ball’s lighting system is capable of producing a kaleidoscopic array of 16 million hues and colors, and billions of patterns, the event’s website says.
Each giant New Year’s numeral marking up “2-0-1-1” will stand 7 feet high and the numerals will also use a total of 453 9-watt LED bulbs. As in the past three years, the numerals were designed to be more energy efficient, as Duracell set up a lab in which visitors rode stationary bikes to provide the stored battery power that will light the numbers on the ball Friday night.
More than one ton of confetti will be released at midnight, with personal individual wishes written in more than 25 languages, a tradition from the past three years.
Time Square has served as one of the most popular sites of New Year’s festivities since 1904, though the New Year’s Eve ball made its inaugural drop down the flagpole at One Time Square in 1907. That first ball, built with iron and wood, featured one hundred light bulbs and was designed by Jacob Starr, a young immigrant metalwork.
According to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, this New Year’s Eve celebration, like years in the past, is a product of a lot of hard work and planning by many people. “We don’t ever take it for granted,” Kelly said. “The situation changes somewhat, we have sort of a core plan but we always add to it or change it – we don’t want to get stuck in a rut where we simply take a plan off the shelf.” (CNN)
As in previous years, security will be tight. Times Square will be closed to traffic at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday. Backpacks and alcohol are prohibited at the event and party-goers can expect a beefed-up police presence, according to the statement from the New York Police Department. “It is a big complex operation and you know you always breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over,” Kelly said. (CNN)