PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 December, 1999, 12:00am

It promises to be the television event of the millennium. For the next 36 hours tears will flow as one time zone after another rings in this most special of new years, reaching its climax, of course when it is our turn.

Those wanting to avoid the crush or cost of going out can tune in to millennium coverage on any of the terrestrial channels, CNN or BBC World as background to their own celebrations.

In Hong Kong, the big public party and fireworks spectacle is happening at Happy Valley racecourse, brought to viewers by RTHK in The Millennium Extravaganza (Pearl, 10.20pm, World, 11.16pm, and Entertainment Channel, 10.20pm) and The Millennium Rendezvous Global Countdown (Home, 9.30pm).

Most of Hong Kong's top showbiz personalities, except those under contract to TVB, will take part in the pop and classical concert. But Sarah Brightman, who will sing duets with Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, is the only international star in the line-up. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and senior officials will join the final countdown.

TVB Jade has opted out of this party. It will be hosting its own bash from the Sheung Wan sports ground. TVB personalities such as Lydia Shum Tin-ha, Louis Yuen and Miss Hong Kong Sonija Kwok will be leading it Into The New Millennium Extravaganza (Jade, 9.35pm), which will feature various silly challenges such as how many people can squeeze into a Beetle car, along with the songs of Ekin Cheng Yee-kin and Nicholas Tse Ting-fung.

Celebrations from around the world can be followed in the hourly Year 2000 Global Countdown (World, from 5.55pm), beginning as the new millennium hits the south Pacific.

These bulletins continue throughout the night and much of tomorrow, following midnight as it rolls westward.

CNN is drawing on its global network to provide 100 hours of live coverage in Millennium 2000 (CNNI, from 5.30pm). This begins with the first sunset of the old year and continues with countdowns and sunrises from choice locations, ranging from The Mount Of Olives in Jerusalem and the Great Pyramids at Giza to the Kennedy Space Station and the Las Vegas Strip.

It includes special features and theme segments, including the opening of the first money markets on Monday, and finishes on Tuesday.

Rebecca Mackinnon will report from Beijing at midnight, Hong Kong time. As long as no Y2K bug hits its elaborate communications system, we should see Mike Chinoy cover the arrival of the third millennium from the Chatham Islands at 6.15pm.

The countdowns will be interspersed with interviews with the many people who are part of this historic moment.

There will also be reports on more reflective turn-of-the-century issues, ranging from global warming to 'pets and us', as well as any Y2K bug news.

YMC-Times Square Apple Countdown (Channel A and i-Cable Web site, 9.30pm) will cover Cable's millennium party from Hong Kong's Times Square, featuring local singers Karen Mok, Anthony Lun and DJ Tommy, along with British singer Lisa Lamb and local bands Zen, LMF and DSC.