New year revellers ready to party
Published 31/12/2012 | 06:55
Fiscal cliff? Recession? Not in Asia, where the first countries to see 2013 dawn are enthusiastically welcoming the new year.
Increasingly democratic Burma will have a public countdown for the first time, while Jakarta is planning a huge street party befitting Indonesia's powering economy.
In Sydney, eager revellers camped overnight on the shores of the harbour to get the best vantage points as some 1.5 million are expected to see the fireworks show centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
In Hong Kong, this year's 12.5 million Hong Kong dollar (£990 million) fireworks display was being billed by organisers as the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city. Police expect as many as 100,000 people to watch, local news reports said.
The buoyant economies of the Asia-Pacific are prepared to party with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economy of Europe.
But in Delhi, the festive mood was marred by the death on Saturday of a young rape victim. Several hotels, clubs and residents associations in the Indian capital decided to cancel planned festivities and asked people to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim whose plight sparked public rallies for women's safety. "Let there be no new year celebrations across the country. It will be a major tribute to the departed soul," said Praveen Khandelwal, the secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders, an umbrella group of traders who run shops and businesses across the country.
In a field in Burma's largest city, Yangon, workers were testing a giant digital countdown screen with the backdrop of the revered Shwedagon pagoda. Arranged by local Forever Media group and Index Creative Village, a Thai major event organiser, the celebration will be the first public new year countdown in Burma, a country ruled for almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings. "We are planning this public new year event because we want residents of Yangon to enjoy the public countdown like in other countries," said Win Thura Hlaing, managing director of Forever Blossom company, a subsidiary of Forever Media.
With live music performances by singers and celebrities, colourful light beams, spotlights, food stalls, fireworks and other events at the venue, the countdown is expected to draw 50,000 people, Win Thura Hlaing said.
Jakarta's street party will centre on a four-mile main thoroughfare closed to all traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers were erecting 16 large stages along the normally car-clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city. Indonesia's booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and bringing prosperity - or the hope of it - to Indonesians. Spirits in the capital have been further raised by the election of a new, populist governor who is pledging action in tackling the city's massive infrastructure problems.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said about 1.5 million spectators were expected to line the harbour to watch the 6.6 million Australian dollar (£4.2 million) fireworks display, while another two million Australians among a population of 22 million would watch it on television. Pop singer Kylie Minogue is host and creative ambassador for Sydney's event.