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Ushering in 2014: Cities prepare to party

Sapa

From Cape Town's Grand Parade party to fireworks in Sydney and a long line-up of kwaito acts in Jo'burg, here's how major cities plan to welcome 2014.

Students stand to form 'Happy 2014' to welcome the upcoming New Year at a middle school in Ma'anshan, Anhui province. (Reuters)

Law enforcement agencies appealed to revellers on Monday to abide by the law as they prepare to usher in the New Year.

The City of Cape Town said it was ready for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to descend on the city to ring in the New Year.

The city will have a free concert with lasers, fireworks and a special 3D tribute to Nelson Mandela who died on December 5.

Images from the anti-apartheid hero's life will be projected onto City Hall where he gave his first speech after his release from 27 years in prison in 1990.

"Law enforcement officers will be deployed in the CBD, where the city is hosting a party on the Grand Parade to signal the start of its year as World Design Capital," disaster management spokesperson Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said.

"Other party hotspots such as Long Street will also be patrolled, as well as beaches where fireworks displays are held."

The city expected between 150 000 and 200 000 people on the beaches on New Year's Day.

"Visitors are reminded that alcohol is not permitted on the beaches. Officers have seized nearly 5000 bottles of alcohol from beach-goers since the beginning of the festive season," said safety and security head Richard Bosman.

Jo'burg's New Year's Eve festival
The City of Johannesburg said it would host a New Year's Eve festival on Tuesday at the Mary Fitzgerald Square, in Newtown.

Artists such as Chomee, Kelly Khumalo, Mdu, Skwatta Kamp, Arthur, Ismael, Pro Kid, Brickz, Zola, Mshoza, Mandoza, DJ AJ, Mzambiya, DJ Shimza and Doc Shebeleza would entertain the crowds.

"More than 10 000 party-goers are expected to attend this year's party. The party will also include a massive 10 minute fireworks display at midnight," said spokesperson Tahir Sema.

Streets such as Miriam Makeba, Bree, Jeppe and Henry Nxumalo would be closed.

"People are strongly advised to behave responsibly. Bottled beverages, alcohol, fireworks and weapons will not be allowed in the venue," said Sema.

Emergency services, the police and Johannesburg Metro police would be stationed across the city centre to keep an eye on revellers.

Mpumalanga's crowd management plans
In Mpumalanga, police provincial commissioner Major General Meshack Nogwanya asked event organisers to submit their crowd management plans to their closest police station or have them ready should they be requested.

In terms of the law, an organiser should appoint a safety officer and should have a written safety plan detailing security measures, crowd management measures, motor vehicle parking and emergency medical measures, Nogwanya said.

"I therefore request co-operation from organisers of bashes and festivals to submit copies of their plans or have them ready should they be needed. Failure to comply will result in steps being taken against such an organiser."

This was meant to prevent stampedes as a result of venues being filled beyond their capacity during New Year's Eve celebrations, he said.

Nogwanya said the police would visit venues across the province to verify safety plans and establish whether they were filled beyond their capacity.

Global New Year celebrations
Meanwhile, Sydney promised an unprecedented fireworks spectacular to kick off global New Year celebrations on Tuesday, the first in a wave of pyrotechnics to usher in 2014 from Hong Kong to world record-chasing Dubai.

Tons of explosives will light up Australia's harbour city with fireworks shooting off the Opera House for the first time in more than 10 years as part of the December 31 extravaganza, centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the Aus$6-million show ($5.4 million), themed "Shine", was expected to attract 1.6-million spectators to the city's harbour front, with thousands of visitors already camped out under blue skies early on Tuesday to secure a front-row seat.

"We are ready to host the world's best New Year's Eve on the world's most beautiful harbour," Moore told reporters.

There will be a record three fireworks displays at 9pm, 10.30pm and midnight, with Moore promising the spectacle – biodegradable and using recycled water – would be "bigger than ever".

Best show on earth
Dubai is challenging Sydney's claim to the best show on earth pledging a record-breaking explosion of more than 400 000 fireworks, the biggest the world has ever seen, stretching over 100 kilometres.

Dubai hopes to break the Guinness World Record for the largest firework display which will spread over the Gulf emirate's man-made islands and the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower.

Neighbouring Kuwait currently holds the mark, set in 2011 with an epic hour-long show of 77 282 fireworks.

Major spectaculars will also light up the Thames in London when Big Ben bongs midnight, Moscow's Red Square and Kremlin and Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

In Rio de Janeiro, authorities are predicting 2.3-million people – a third of them tourists – will crowd Copacabana Beach for fireworks and pop music.

The theme will be romantic, said the city's tourism secretary, Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello.

"At one moment of the musicalised fireworks, the music sort of falls, and there we have a kiss in Copacabana, we'll hear a 'smack', ... we'll have 100 hearts exploding on Copacabana beach to toast for this reveillon of love," he said.

Revellers in New York
An expected one-million revellers will gather in New York to mark the stroke of midnight and the traditional New Year's Eve ball-drop over Times Square.

Before that cities across Asia will hail the New Year with Hong Kong boasting the biggest-ever countdown show for the Chinese city.

Fireworks will be lit from the top of skyscrapers and a one-kilometre line of barges along Victoria Harbour in a "wish upon a star" tourism board show.

Seoul will ring in 2014 with a ritual clanging of the city's 15th-century bronze bell 33 times, reflecting the ancient practise of marking a new year.

In Singapore, people will flock to Marina Bay financial district for the fireworks while thousands of white spheres will be launched to bob on the water, each containing wishes for 2014 penned by residents.

The Taipei 101, once the world's tallest skyscraper, will stage the pyrotechnics in Taiwan's capital, kicking off with a laser beam from a 4.5-metre statue of Spiderman.

Kaleidoscope of cultures
Jakarta has set up 12 city centre stages for performances to showcase the vast archipelago's kaleidoscope of cultures.

However, 6 500 police will be out to ensure security in and around the Indonesian capital amid warnings that extremists in the country may target the celebrations, prompting travel warnings from countries including neighbouring Australia.

Tonga, located near the international dateline, will be one of the first nations to greet 2014. The deeply religious Pacific country is holding a week-long prayer festival that culminates with bamboo "cannons" fired into the air.

But not everyone will be celebrating.

Saudi Arabia's religious police warned against partying on New Year's Eve in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom. – AFP, Sapa

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