Canberra: As the clock struck midnight, Auckland became the first major city in New Zealand to welcome the new year 2024. Thousands of people gathered around the Sky Tower, the country’s tallest tower, to watch the spectacular fireworks display. However, the festive mood was dampened by the ongoing war in Ukraine and Gaza, which has cast a shadow over the New Year celebrations in many parts of the world.
Auckland celebrates despite rain and war
Despite the light rain and the grim news from abroad, about 1.7 million people in Auckland celebrated the new year with enthusiasm. The city hosted several events, including live music, street performances, and cultural shows. The highlight of the night was the 10-minute fireworks show from the Sky Tower, which lit up the sky with colorful sparks and patterns.
However, not everyone in New Zealand was in a celebratory mood. Some people expressed their solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Gaza, who are suffering from the violence and destruction caused by the war. Some also called for peace and justice in the world and urged the government to take a stronger stance against the aggressors.
Sydney dazzles with fireworks and light show
Across the Tasman Sea, Sydney also put on a dazzling show of fireworks and lights on the Harbour Bridge. The iconic bridge was illuminated with the theme of “Together Again”, reflecting the hope for a better and safer year ahead. More than one million people gathered around the harbor to witness the spectacle, which was accompanied by music and a message from the Aboriginal elders.
Sydney had tight security arrangements in place, as the city has been on high alert since the terrorist attack on the Opera House in November 2023. Police and security personnel were deployed in large numbers, and checkpoints and barricades were set up to control the crowd. The authorities also advised the public to follow the COVID-19 protocols, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
New York prepares for a safe and secure celebration
In New York, the famous Times Square was ready to host the traditional ball drop and countdown to the new year. Officials and event organizers said they had taken all the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the people who would attend the celebration. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said there was “no significant threat” to the New Year’s festivities, but urged the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
However, the celebration in New York was also marred by the ongoing protests over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which have been taking place daily in the city. Police said they had created a “buffer zone” to prevent any clashes between the protesters and the revelers. They also warned that anyone who would disrupt the celebration or cause violence would be arrested.
Paris celebrates with an Olympic theme
The New Year’s eve celebration in Paris was focused on the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, which the city will host in less than three years. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and other landmarks were decorated with the Olympic rings and colors. A giant screen on the Champs Elysees displayed the countdown and the logo of the games. A fireworks show and a laser show were also part of the celebration.
However, the celebration in Paris was not without restrictions. The local authorities banned the sale and consumption of alcohol on and around the Champs Elysees and prohibited the entry of people with glass bottles and flasks. They also deployed more than 10,000 police and security personnel to maintain order and prevent any incidents.
Russia cancels fireworks and concerts amid war
The New Year’s celebration in Russia was subdued and somber, as the country was engaged in a military action in Ukraine, which has sparked international condemnation and sanctions. The usual fireworks and concerts on Moscow’s Red Square were canceled for the second year in a row, and the public was discouraged from gathering in large numbers. Some local authorities across Russia, including Vladivostok, also canceled their fireworks displays, after a shooting rampage killed 24 people in the border city of Belgorod on Saturday.
The only official event in Russia was the New Year’s address by President Vladimir Putin, which was broadcast on state television and radio. Putin praised the Russian people for their courage and resilience and defended the Russian intervention in Ukraine as a necessary measure to protect the Russian-speaking population. He also expressed his hope for a peaceful and prosperous new year for Russia and the world.
Pakistan bans all celebrations in solidarity with Gaza
In Pakistan, the government banned all New Year’s eve celebrations, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, who are facing a brutal attack by Israel in Gaza. The caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, in a message, urged the Pakistanis to “show solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza” by starting the new year with simplicity and prayers. He said that Muslims around the world were saddened and outraged by the Israeli aggression, which has killed thousands of innocent people and destroyed the infrastructure and livelihoods of Gaza.
Kakar also called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and demanded the international community to intervene and stop the bloodshed. He said that Pakistan would continue to support the Palestinian cause, and would raise its voice against the injustice and oppression in every forum. He also wished the Pakistani people a happy and prosperous new year.