Australia kicks off global new year party with firework tribute to Bowie, Prince

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 12:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 12:48am

Sydney celebrated the end of 2016 with 120 tonnes of fireworks and a tribute to three of the year’s most high-profile celebrity deaths.

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 US$130m 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,” 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 programme was finalised, the organisers said.

In Melbourne, 13.5 tonnes of fireworks were detonated over an 8 sq 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 US$3m, of which US$2.5m 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,” 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.