Crowds began to gather for New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney starting early Monday morning, and by 8 am (2100 GMT) many prime spots around the harbour were already crowded hours ahead of the night-time spectacle.
Crowds began to gather for New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney starting early Monday morning, and by 8 am (2100 GMT) many prime spots around the harbour were already crowded hours ahead of the night-time spectacle. PIX: Brendan Esposito/AAP/dpa

SYDNEY – Crowds began to gather for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney starting early Monday morning, and by 8 am (2100 GMT) many prime spots around the harbour were already crowded hours ahead of the night-time spectacle.

Around 1.5 million people are expected to pack the harbour foreshore for the spectacular midnight fireworks from the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, islands and barges the length of the harbour.

Organisers say the celebration to welcome in 2019 will be the biggest ever with 6 million dollars (4.22 million US dollars) spent on 8.5 tonnes of fireworks going off for 12 minutes – 500 kilograms more than last year.

A total 25,000 pyrotechnics will be launched from the Harbour Bridge alone.

Fireworks director Fortunato Foti told reporters there will be new colours this year – lime and peach along with 3D looking shell fireworks and pyrotechnics which blast into umbrella and flower shapes.

“You will also see such shapes as hearts, smiley faces and red, green, orange and lemon pulsating shell fireworks,” he told reporters at a press conference.

A tribute to soul singer Aretha Franklin who died in 2018 will be a centrepiece of the music to go with the fireworks. Her hit song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” will play as spectacular silver and gold fireworks light up Sydney Harbour.

The fireworks are just the climax of a day of celebrations with dancing tugboats spraying water, an aerial display by flying aces and colourful ships lighting up the harbour.

There will also be early fireworks display at 9 pm to allow parents to get kids home, a ceremony commemorating the Dreamtime and an animation projected on the bridge pylons.

But concerns have been raised that people wanting to get to many of the prime public park viewing sites around the harbour now have to buy tickets – most for 40 dollars per person (28.7 US dollars) and some as much 60 dollars.

Joseph O’Donaghue from the group Keep Sydney Open said the reasons given were crowd control and clean-up costs, but people in those ticketed areas were forced to buy expensive drinks and food from licensed caterers.

“The harbour foreshore should be free for everyone on New Year’s Eve just as it is for the rest of the year,” O’Donaghue said on ABC radio Monday.

“Also the blanket ban on alcohol in the free areas is over the top. What’s wrong with clinking a glass of champagne with friends and family at midnight?” -DPA

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