Sydney to kick off global New Year parties with dazzling spectacle

New Year's Eve fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the main midnight event in Sydney on Dec 31, 2018.
New Year's Eve fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the main midnight event in Sydney on Dec 31, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
New Year's Eve fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the main midnight event in Sydney on Dec 31, 2018.
New Year's Eve fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the main midnight event in Sydney on Dec 31, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
More than 1.5 million spectators are expected to crowd foreshores and parks.
More than 1.5 million spectators are expected to crowd foreshores and parks.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
People running to Mrs Macquarie's Point in preparation for the New Year's Eve firework display in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.
People running to Mrs Macquarie's Point in preparation for the New Year's Eve firework display in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Yachts gather at Farm Cove in preparation for the New Year's Eve firework display in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.
Yachts gather at Farm Cove in preparation for the New Year's Eve firework display in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's largest city Sydney will put on its biggest-ever firework display to welcome the New Year and kick off a wave of celebrations for billions around the world.

A record amount of pyrotechnics as well as new firework effects and colours will light up the harbour city's skyline for 12 minutes and dazzle the more than 1.5 million spectators expected to crowd foreshores and parks.

"I'm sure we'll delight in seeing our beautiful harbour lit up like never before," Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

To mark the international year of indigenous languages in 2019, the harbour will host a ceremony celebrating Aboriginal heritage that includes animations projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge's pylons.

Around the world

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 targeted in terror and vehicle attacks.

Here's how cities will be celebrating:

Singapore: Bazaars and carnivals in downtown Singapore will culminate in a seven-minute firework display in Marina Bay at the stroke of midnight.

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

Tokyo: Japanese will flock to temples to ring in the New Year, while US boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr will take 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 firework 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 union, with the firework display at the London Eye to feature music from the continent's artists.

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 European Union.

Looking ahead to 2019

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.

The political wrangling in Westminster over Brexit was one of the key stories of this year, with a resolution yet to be reached ahead of the scheduled March 29 departure from the EU.

United States President Donald Trump dominated headlines in 2018 as he ramped up his trade war with China, quit the Iran nuclear deal, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and met his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un in Singapore for a historic summit.

North Korea's commitment to denuclearisation will remain a major political and security issue into next year, as will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reassertion of control after Mr Trump's shock military withdrawal announcement.

The war in Yemen, which started in 2014 and has already killed about 10,000 people and left some 20 million at risk of starvation, could take a crucial turn after a ceasefire took effect in mid-December.

Numerous countries go to the polls in 2019, with key elections in India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.

Major sporting events on the calendar include the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the cricket one-day international World Cup in England and the athletics World Championships in Qatar.