LONDON: A huge police presence is on the streets for London’s new year fireworks display as the UK prepares to usher in 2017. People from almost 100 countries will flock to the Thames to view the pyrotechnics, which will begin as Big Ben strikes midnight. About 12,000 fireworks producing 50,000 projectiles will transform the city skyline for 12 minutes to gasps from the 110,000 ticket holders at the mayor’s sold-out showcase event. Thousands of police officers are providing a protective ring around the display, and tactics have been adjusted following this year’s terrorist attacks in Europe. About 3,000 officers are on duty within and outside ticketed areas, and armed police will be a fixture on the tube as they travel between jobs in a move aimed at reassuring passengers. Fears of a mass-casualty terror plot targeting one of the country’s new year events have heightened after the use of lorries in devastating attacks on crowded areas of Nice and Berlin.
British Transport police said they would be extending officers’ working hours on the night for a second year running. Supt Andy Morgan said: “We developed and improved our security plan for last year’s New Year’s Eve event following the atrocities in Paris in the previous November and we, of course, have looked at good security, a thorough security boost following a different type of threat in Nice back in July. “In general, we have a good eyeline on what could happen, we’ve got very, very good assets both covert and overt deployed out within the footprint and across London, almost joined at the hip with our colleagues from the Metropolitan police to make sure that we’re working together to provide that security blanket across London.” For the first time, people without tickets will be able to view the fireworks from three locations through a 360-degree feed.
This year’s countdown will last very slightly longer than usual as a so-called “leap second” is introduced to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation. Some of the stars the world lost in 2016 will be honoured. David Bowie, Prince and the Two Ronnies, which included Ronnie Corbett, will feature on the soundtrack. In Edinburgh, 80,000 revellers will attend the Hogmanay street party in the city centre, where the Charlatans will perform. Paolo Nutini will front a concert in the gardens. New year enthusiasm is at risk of being dampened in northern England and Wales as rain is set to sweep across areas including Manchester, Leeds and possibly Cardiff at midnight, the Met Office said. On the other side of the globe, countries have already begun celebrating the arrival of 2017, with spectacular fireworks illuminating Sydney harbour in Australia. The harbour bridge was doused in the light of an estimated seven tonnes of fireworks during two displays, including an earlier show in which the landmark glowed purple in a tribute to Prince. Bowie was also honoured with space-themed fireworks as a nod to his hit Space Oddity. The Pacific island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati were the first to welcome the new year at 1000 GMT. The end of 2016 was then marked in the Chatham Islands and parts of New Zealand shortly afterwards, with fireworks launched from the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower before celebrations began in Sydney at 1300 GMT.