Sydney prays for good weather for fireworks show

SYDNEY, Dec. 29 Kyodo Organizers of Sydney’s biggest-ever New Year’s Eve fireworks show say they have beaten the millennium bug, but are now praying for good weather for Friday night celebrations that will be viewed by a world-wide audience of billions.

“The weather is the only threat. The issue for us is not so much the rain, it is the wind,” said Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor after a week of unseasonably wet, cold and windy Christmas weather.

But the fireworks show, “which involves enough gunpowder for a major international incident if anything goes wrong,” will go on in any weather conditions, said Ric Birch, executive producer of Spectak, the company staging the show.

“The fireworks will go on…the party will go on.”

More than 20 tons of fireworks will be used in a 10 minute show at 9 p.m. and a 25 minute show at midnight fired from 15 locations on Sydney Harbor, the Harbor Bridge, the Opera House and high-rise buildings.

Between the two fireworks displays a flotilla of 18 giant silk lanterns shaped as sea creatures will make its way around the harbor.

Birch said organizers were confident there would be no millennium bug glitches as all systems used during the 6 million dollar show were backed up by power generators and all computer systems being used are Y2K compliant.

“The worst case scenario will be if New Year’s Eve goes off with a bang, but the major television networks shut down because of Y2K,” said Birch.

The show will be beamed to an estimated international audience of more than 12 billion viewers by major global television giants including CNN, Associated Press Television Network and the British Broadcasting Corp., as well as networks in South Korea, Japan and Europe.

At 11 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, Sydney is the first major city to cross into 2000.

“We hope it will set the stage for the rest of the world,” said Sartor.

Police have estimated a record crowd of between 1.2 and 1.5 million people will crowd into central Sydney and along the harbor foreshore to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

“It will be the biggest event we’ve ever seen, it will bigger than any crowds during the Olympics (in Sydney next September),” said Assistant Police Commissioner Dick Adams who is coordinating Sydney’s New Years’ Eve police operation.

Adams said police would map crowd density around the city and barricade certain areas to prevent panic or crushes.

“What I am worried about is too many people in one particular area. We could have some crowd crush,” he said.

Adams has warned Sydney partygoers to be patient and be prepared to walk long distances to return to their home from the city due to road and public transport closures.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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