New Year’s Eve celebrations are in full swing in some countries around the world as major western cities are tightening security amid continuing terrorism fears.
One of the first countries to celebrate was Australia. David Bowie, Prince, and Gene Wilder were celebrated in the 12-minute midnight display, which also drew inspiration from a 3D paper sculpture of the city that recreated Sydney landmarks with native flowers.
Thousands of rockets were launched from seven barges on the harbour, and 2,400 special lighting effects were used, with the Sydney harbour bridge itself turned into a “pyrotechnic focal point”.
The City of Sydney was prepared for crowds of up to 1.5 million on the foreshore or watching from boats in the harbour, making it one of the largest fireworks displays in the world.
An additional one billion people were expected to watch from home via live broadcasts on television and social media.
According to research done for the City of Sydney, up to 46 per cent of spectators on the harbour travel from overseas to see the event, which is worth $130 million to the economy in New South Wales.
Sydney's lord mayor, Clover Moore, said the theme recognised the number of entertainment icons lost in 2016 and the close relationship that Bowie, in particular, had with the city.
"Sydney is especially significant for David Bowie, who called Elizabeth Bay home for a decade from the early 80s, filming music videos and recording an album here," Mr Moore said.
"Prince performed in Australia many times and his Sydney opera house concert was one of his last. And I know children and adults everywhere will delight in the colourful Willy Wonka moment during the midnight fireworks."
Fireworks director Fortunato Foti, who has been responsible for the city's New Year's Eve fireworks since 1997, said this year's show had required them to develop new techniques to deliver new effects.
The more recent deaths of Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Debbie Reynolds occurred after the program was finalised, the organisers said.
In Melbourne, 13.5 tonnes of fireworks were detonated over an 8sq km area, lighting up the entire city.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the display was designed to be visible from anywhere in the city.
The display cost $3 million, of which $2.5million was spent on security. About 500,000 people were expected to head into the city to hear live music at four different sites.
“We’re always a bit nervous, as I say every year, you don’t often throw a party for 500,000 of your best friends, but when they come over you better be ready and we are,” Mr Doyle told the ABC.
Crowd numbers in Brisbane were expected to meet last year's figures of 120,000, with an additional 50,000 expected at Surfers Paradise.
Heightened security measures
Major western cities are tightening security for New Year’s Eve celebrations, with authorities particularly concerned about a repeat of this year’s deadly truck attacks in Germany and France.
“Every measure is being taken to prevent a possible attack,” said police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf in Berlin, where concrete blocks and armoured cars will prevent all but carefully controlled pedestrian access to Pariser Platz, the square in front of Brandenburg Gate that is the traditional site for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Twelve people died and more than 50 were injured in the German capital on 19 December when a hijacked truck was driven into Christmas market crowds. The suspected perpetrator, Anis Amri, a Tunisian national, fled and was eventually shot dead by police in Italy.
The attack, months after a similar atrocity in Nice on Bastille Day killed 86 people and wounded more than 400, underscored the threat to large holiday crowds in open spaces from a low-tech but devastating type of terrorist attack that can be carried out by one person.
Neuendorf said about 1,700 officers, some carrying submachine guns, would be stationed in and around the square in an “unprecedented” security operation. Glass bottles and fireworks will be banned and revellers subjected to bag searches and video surveillance.
Cologne has also dramatically stepped up security, increasing police numbers fivefold and installing new CCTV cameras since hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed outside the central train station by suspects mainly of North African and Arab appearance on New Year’s Eve 2015.
Paris has again cancelled its traditional firework display at the Eiffel Tower – as it did after the November 2015 terror attacks in which 130 people died – but the French capital expects up to 600,000 people on the Champs-Élysées to watch a lightshow at the Arc de Triomphe and see in 2017.
Amid tight security, however, more than 50 surrounding streets will be closed to traffic, including parked cars, from 6.30pm on Saturday, many access roads will be sealed off with concrete barriers or heavy vehicles, and strict bans on fireworks and glass bottles will be enforced, Paris city hall said.
In the US, president-elect Donald Trump posted an unusual New Year message for his Twitter followers. He wished a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly”.
Mr Trump added: “they just don’t know what to do”, ending his message with the word, “Love!”
The president-elect will be spending his New Year’s Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. He will be throwing a private party that is expected to draw hundreds of guests, including action star Sylvester Stallone.