- Associated Press - Monday, December 31, 2012

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Sydney’s skyline erupted with tons of exploding fireworks as revelers cheered in the new year from the city’s crammed harbor in the world’s first major celebration for 2013.

The enthusiastic welcome to 2013 was continuing on a grand scale across Asia.

Increasingly democratic Myanmar is having a public countdown for the first time. Jakarta, Indonesia, plans a huge street party befitting the country’s powering economy.

The buoyant economies of the Asia-Pacific are prepared to party with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economies of Europe.

Celebrations were planned around the world, with hundreds of thousands expected to fill Times Square in New York City to watch the drop of a Waterford-crystal-studded ball.

Major cities across austerity-hit Europe were to burn off part of their battered budgets in spectacular fireworks displays, although some municipalities — including the Cypriot capital, Nicosia — canceled their celebrations in light of the economic crisis. Nicosia said 16,000 euros ($21,000) saved from the canceled event will be given to some 320 needy schoolchildren.

Sydney’s balmy summer night was split by 7 tons of fireworks fired from rooftops and barges, many cascading from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, in a 6.6 million Australian dollar ($6.9 million) pyrotechnic extravaganza billed by organizers as the world’s largest.

Eager revelers camped Sunday night to get the best vantage points.

In Hong Kong, this year’s 12.5 million Hong Kong dollar ($1.6 million) fireworks display is said to be the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city. Police expected as many as 100,000 people to watch.

One day after dancing in the snow to celebrate the first anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un’s ascension to supreme commander, North Koreans were preparing to mark the arrival of the new year, marked as “Juche 102” on North Korean calendars. “Juche” means “self-reliance,” the North Korean ideology of independence promoted by national founder Kim Il-sung, who was born 102 years ago. His grandson now rules North Korea.

In New Delhi, the festive mood was marred by the death Saturday of a young rape victim.

Hotels, clubs and residents’ associations in the Indian capital decided to cancel planned festivities and asked people to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim whose plight sparked public rallies for women’s safety.

“Let there be no New Year celebrations across the country. It will be a major tribute to the departed soul,” said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders, an umbrella group of operators of shops and businesses across the country.

In a field in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, workers were testing a giant digital countdown screen with the backdrop of the revered Shwedagon pagoda.

Arranged by the local Forever Media group and Index Creative Village, a Thai event organizer, the celebration is the first public New Year’s countdown in Myanmar, a country ruled for almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings.

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