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New Year's Eve: Revellers bid adieu to year of conflicts, celebrity deaths

New Year's Eve: Revellers bid adieu to year of conflicts, celebrity deaths

As 2016 draws to a close, revellers around the world are bidding a weary adieu to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts and deaths of legendary celebrities.

Here is how people are ushering in the new year:

Australia

After a year that saw the deaths of a seemingly endless parade of entertainers, Sydney honoured some of the most beloved. The city’s famed fireworks display over the harbour paid homage to Prince and David Bowie, and was set to a music medley inspired by the late singers.

“We are hoping to make it rain purple this year for the first time, not only off the barges, but also off the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” fireworks director Fortunato Forti said, referencing Prince’s hit Purple Rain.

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Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as Australia ushers in the new year. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

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Charlotte Kent from Huddersfield in England wears glowing glasses and a headset for 2017 before watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, Australia, December 31, 2016. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

The seven tonnes of fireworks launched from barges on the harbor also included a Willy Wonka moment” in tribute to the late actor Gene Wilder’s most famous role, fireworks co-producer Catherine Flanagan said. And there was a nod to the Bowie classic Space Oddity, with Saturn, moon and star-shaped fireworks. Bowie lived in Sydney for about 10 years during the 1980s and ’90s.

“This year, sadly, we saw the loss of many music and entertainment legends around the world,” Flanagan said. “So 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.”

Around 1.5 million revellers were expected to ring the harbour to join in the festivities. An extra 2,000 police were on duty and buses were used to block off certain pedestrian areas following the deadly truck-driving attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.

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Visitors from Mexico, Palestine and Hungary pose for a photo at the Brandenburg Gate, ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Berlin. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Officials urged residents to carry on celebrating as normal, despite the threats of extremist attacks across the globe and in Australia. On Friday, a man was arrested after police say he 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.

Hungary New Year 2017

A young woman writes ‘2017’ using a sparkler during the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. (Attila Balazs/Associated Press)

Las Vegas, New York

More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration.

Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. The city’s celebrity chefs have crafted elaborate prix fixe menus complete with caviar and champagne toasts.

An eight-minute fireworks show will kick off at the stroke of midnight, with rockets launching from the tops of half a dozen casinos.

Federal officials have ranked the celebration just below the Super Bowl and on par with the festivities in Times Square. FBI and Secret Service agents will work alongside local police departments that are putting all hands on deck for the big night.

Anywhere from a million to two million people could converge on Times Square in New York City for the festivities. It will be impossible to drive into the crowd because of a new security measure. Dozens of garbage trucks filled with sand will be blocking vehicle access to Times Square.

Revellers will be checked by security officials twice, once when they enter the square and once when they go into viewing pens that stretch from 42nd Street to West 59th Street. No large bags or umbrellas will be allowed.

Canada

In Ottawa, two massive fireworks displays are planned for Parliament Hill to kick off a year-long 150th birthday bash across Canada. More than $ 210 million has been allocated for the 150th anniversary projects and events.

New Year’s Eve events are being held in 19 cities across the country, including St. John’s, which will be the first to hit the midnight milestone.

Japan

Temple bells were set to echo at midnight in Japan, where many revellers flocked to shrines to mark the new year.

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Security officers check visitors entering annual New Year’s Eve celebrations near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Saturday. (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

“I feel this sense of duality,” said Kami Miyamoto, 21, an economics student at Meiji University in Tokyo, who travelled home in Hakusan, Ishikawa prefecture, for the holiday.

“The world is heading toward conservative insular policies,” she said of the U.S. election, Brexit and what she believes lies ahead for elections in Europe in 2017. “We learned about how valuable it is to get correct information.”

One of the most memorable experiences for Miyamoto in 2016 was a three-week study program in South Korea. She was surprised and moved by the friendship she formed with South Korean students, and she has decided to focus her studies on relations with South Korea.

“Studying about the U.S. and Europe seems to be about looking at the past, but East Asian studies are focusing on the future,” she said.

Miyamoto’s mother prepared soba noodles, a standard New Year’s Eve dish in Japan, except in their home it was filled with green onions and shrimp. As the new year rolled in, the entire family, including her younger brother and sister, planned to drive to a nearby shrine, which, like temples all over Japan, were filled with those praying for good fortune in the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac.

China

Residents in Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two largest cities, passed New Year’s Eve in a relative state of security lockdown, according to Chinese media reports citing police.

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Shinto priests walk past lanterns after attending a ritual to usher in the upcoming New Year at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

The Bund waterfront in Shanghai would not have any celebrations, authorities announced this week, while the sale, use and transportation of fireworks in central Shanghai would be prohibited altogether. Large buildings that often display light shows also stayed dark. More than 30 people died two years ago in a deadly stampede on Shanghai’s waterfront, where 300,000 people had gathered to watch a planned light show.

Beijing police also said countdowns, lightshows, lotteries and other organized activities would not be held in popular shopping districts such as Sanlitun and Guomao. Beijing police advised citizens to avoid crowded areas, closely watch elderly relatives and children, and be aware of exit routes in venues.

North and South Korea

Kim Il-sung Square in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, was the scene of a fireworks display to ring in the new year.

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People pose for pictures as they attend a New Year’s Eve countdown event in Beijing. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

To the south, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans ushered in the new year with a massive protest demanding the resignation of disgraced President Park Geun-hye. It was the 10th straight weekend of protests that led to Park’s impeachment on Dec. 9 over a corruption scandal.

The evening rally overlapped with Seoul’s traditional bell-tolling ceremony at the Bosinkgak pavilion at midnight.

The city’s mayor, Park Won-soon, invited as guests a man whose teenage son was among more than 300 people who died during a 2014 ferry sinking, and a woman who was forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s Second World War military.

Remembering 2016 and lives lost2:45

Park came under heavy criticism over the way her government handled the ferry disaster.

“So many unbelievable things happened in 2016. It didn’t feel real; if felt like a movie,” protester Lee Huymi said about the bizarre scandal that brought Park down. “So I hope 2017 brings a movie-like ending to the mess. Everything getting solved, quickly and all at once, leaving us all happy.”

India

For most people in India, New Year’s Eve is a time for family. In New Delhi and many other cities, newspapers are full of big advertisements for lavish parties at upscale hotels and restaurants. The big draws at the hotel parties were song and dance performances from Bollywood and television stars.

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A man gets a haircut with the number ‘2017’ to welcome the new year at a barbershop in Ahmedabad, India. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Police with breath analyzers checked for drunk driving, and security was tightened in malls and restaurants.

The western city of Mumbai hosted big street parties with thousands of people at the iconic Gateway of India, a colonial-era structure on the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea. There was music, as well as dancing and the occasional fireworks.

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Recommended article: The Guardian’s Summary of Julian Assange’s Interview Went Viral and Was Completely False.

CBC | World News

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