Sydney Spectacular to Set Off Global New Year Celebrations

Sydney Spectacular to Set Off Global New Year Celebrations
Sydney Spectacular to Set Off Global New Year Celebrations

Australia's biggest city was today preparing to lead the world in welcoming the New Year with spectacular fireworks over Sydney Harbour, defying terrorist fears days after a deadly siege.

From Hong Kong to London, New York to Rio, millions around the world will celebrate when the clock ticks past midnight, ringing in 2015 with massive fireworks displays, concerts and light shows.

In Sydney, rocked by deadly drama just before Christmas when an Iranian-born gunman with a history of violence and extremism took 17 hostages in the city's financial hub, tonnes of fireworks will explode over the harbour with an expected attendance of 1.6 million people.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the two hostages who died, cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson will be remembered with floral tributes on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge.

"We are celebrating that we are a multicultural, harmonious community but we will be thinking about what happened," she said.

In the aftermath of the siege, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said security agencies had picked up a heightened level of "terrorist chatter" and warned that "the terror threat remains high and... At this level, an attack is likely".

But Moore downplayed fears of another such incident, telling AFP, "We are very confident that it will be a safe event."

Across Asia, millions will be partying with Hong Kong's dazzling skyline along Victoria Harbour set to light up during an eight-minute pyrotechnic display.

In Taiwan, the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101 will be at the centre of celebrations, with performances by pop singers and a firework display at midnight expected to attract hundreds of thousands.

In Japan, the Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo brought out stocks of lucky charms and set up large offertory boxes as it prepared to welcome a huge wave of worshipers overnight.

The gigantic shrine expects three million visitors in the first three days of the new year.

In Afghanistan, the date will bring the last day of NATO's combat mission in the war-weary nation, with a new "train and support" mission to begin as the conflict against the Taliban still rages.

Meanwhile in Berlin, the end of another era will be remembered with "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff joining a huge open air concert in front of the Brandenburg Gate where he famously sang for freedom after the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago.

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