Spectacular fireworks have exploded over Sydney in a blaze of light and colour to ring in the New Year, as the city kicked off a wave of global celebrations from Dubai to London to welcome 2013.
Australia’s famous harbour city brought in the New Year on a balmy summer Tuesday night with a $6.9m display curated by pop icon Kylie Minogue, who pressed the button to start the pyrotechnics.
City officials estimated that more than 1.5 million people watched as the seven tonnes of fireworks went up, including crackers launched from jet-skis and a show-stopping finale on the Harbour Bridge.
Auckland, New Zealand, was the first major city to celebrate the arrival of 2013, with fireworks lighting up the night sky.
Fireworks also splashed above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour once the clock struck midnight.
The eight-minute and $1.6m pyrotechnics show was launched from both land and sea, surrounding the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre where Britain handed over the city’s sovereignty to China in 1997.
In Myanmar, after nearly five decades under military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings, about 90,000 people experienced the country’s first New Year’s Eve countdown in a field in the largest city of Yangon.
“We feel like we are in a different world,” said Yu Thawda, a university student who came with three of her friends.
Organisers had to campaign for months to get permission for the event from the quasi-civilian regime, which has embarked on dramatic reforms since President Thein Sein took office last year.
In North Korea, cannons boomed at midnight in Pyongyang, as people crowded the streets of the capital to watch a fireworks show over the Taedong River.
After mourning leader Kim Jong-il’s death one year ago, North Koreans celebrated the end of a big year that included the rise of his son Kim Jong-un and the recent launch of a satellite into space.
Dropping the ball
Seoul ushered 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 by YouTube sensation Psy, there were fireworks, concerts and street parties. Psy himself will be performing in New York.
Millions of well-wishers visited temples and shrines in Japan for “ninen-mairi” two-year prayers and gathered 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 watched the four-hour programme, which featureed established acts and J-Pop stars.
Popular South Korean performers were left out of this year’s line-up amid territorial friction with Seoul, though taxpayer-funded broadcaster NHK insisted politics had played no part in the selection of performers.
Authorities in the Philippines capital Manila, meanwhile, braced for the annual rush of injuries as families celebrated with do-it-yourself firework displays and shot celebratory bullets into the air. Hospitals were put on high alert.
Some 171 Filipinos have already been wounded since the Christmas weekend, including one poisoned after eating a firework.
Vying to become a permanent fixture on the planetary map of New Year celebrations, Dubai threw 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.
Fireworks capped a mammoth party at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate featuring the Pet Shop Boys, Bonnie Tyler and Blue
Revellers in New York will celebrate the stroke of midnight with the traditional New Year’s Eve ball drop over Times Square.
In Rio de Janeiro, authorities have promised a bumper 16-minute, 24-tonne display opposite Copacabana Beach.