As 2016 drew to a close in the UAE, the celebrations in other parts of the world had already been underway for hours.
Australia used the festivities to pay hommage to the late David Bowie and Prince, with fireworks set to a medley of their music. .
The seven tons of fireworks launched from barges in Sydney harbour also included a “Willy Wonka moment” in tribute to the late actor Gene Wilder’s most famous role.
“This year, sadly, we saw the loss of many music and entertainment legends around the world,” said fireworks co-producer Catherine Flanagan. “Celebrating their music as part of Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks displays is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and what the future may hold.”,
With around 1.5 million revellers around Sydney harbour and memories of the attacks in Berlin and Nice still fresh, an extra 2,000 police were on duty and some pedestrian areas were blocked off by buses.
On Friday, a man was arrested after llegedly posting posted threats on social media related to Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. New South Wales police said he was acting in isolation and had no known links to extremist groups. “Ultimately the best way that we can respond to the threats around the world is to fight for our freedoms, enjoy our freedoms, and part of that is ensuring that we go about and celebrate New Year’s Eve,” state Premier Mike Baird said.
In Japan, temple bells rang out at midnight as families gathered together to eat soba noodles, the standard New Year’s Eve dish before driving to a shrine which, like temples all over the country, were filled with those praying for good fortune in the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac.
In China, however, residents of Beijing and Shanghai, the two largest cities in the country, passed New Year’s Eve in virtual lockdown after the authorities banned celebrations along the Bund waterfront in Shanghai and the sale, use and transportation of fireworks. Two years ago, more than 30 people died in a deadly stampede on Shanghai’s waterfront, where 300,000 people had gathered to watch a planned light show. This year, large buildings often used to display light shows stayed dark.
In Beijing police forbade countdowns, lightshows, lotteries and other organised activities usually held in popular shopping districts.
More than half a million South Koreans ushered in the New Year with another massive protest calling for the immediate arrest and removal of impeached President Park Geun-Hye.
Carrying candles and waving banners, they chanted “Park Geun-Hye step down. Go to prison now.”
“I came here to help usher in a new year that has no Park Geun-Hye”, said Kang Jae-Chun, who brought his two children
The traditional bell-tolling ceremony at the Bosinkgak pavilion at midnight also became a political statement. One of the guests invited by he mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, was a man whose teenage son was among more than 300 people who died during a 2014 ferry sinking. President Park was severely criticised over the way her government handled the ferry disaster.
“So many unbelievable things happened in 2016. It felt like a movie,” said protester Lee Huymi said about the Park scandal. “So I hope 2017 brings a movie-like ending to the mess. Everything getting solved, quickly and all at once, leaving us all happy.”
New Year’s Eve in India is primarily time for family but thousands flocked to the iconic Gateway of India, a colonial-era structure on the Mumbai waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea for a huge street party with music, dancing and fireworks.
The famous, glitzy desert city of Las Vegas pulled out all the stops with an eight-minute firework show launched from the roofs of half a dozen casinos.
More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration.
* Associated Press