SYDNEY: Sydney and Hong Kong put impressive fireworks in a spectacular welcome to New Year, among the first in a wave of billions around the world.
Australia's largest city organized its largest fireworks display with a record amount of pyrotechnics and new effects. Colors lit the city's skyline for 12 minutes and dazzled the more than 1.5 million spectators packing the waterfront and parks.
An earlier thunderstorm did not dampen the spirits of the spirits who camped out at the vantage point, some since the morning.
To mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019, the harbor also hosted a ceremony celebrating the aboriginal heritage that included animations projected on the pylons of the bridge.
Earlier, Australia's neighbor New Zealand produced a dazzling display of fireworks that illuminated Auckland's skyline.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of revelers packed the streets on both sides of the city's Victoria Harbor for a spectacular 10-minute fireworks display.
Some $ 1.8 million pyrotechnic bathed the city's skyscrapers in a dizzying array of colors, accompanied by a score that included Auld Lang Syne, Cantonese, Mandarin and English songs.
Revelers were packed shoulder to shoulder on the tightly-needed streets, many festooned with LED lights and sparkly glasses read "2019".
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta linked over 500 couples tied in a free mass wedding organized by the government, with fireworks showing canceled out of respect for the tsunamis.
New Year's Eve celebrations were also canceled in nearby Banten province, where the disaster struck on December 22, killing more than 400 people.
In Japan, the locals flocked to temples to call in 2019, when the US boxing star Floyd Mayweather retired to beat Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a multi-million dollar exhibition outside Tokyo.
"It was all about entertainment. We had fun," Mayweather said in the ring after the incident, which struck him against an opponent less than half his age.
"I'm still retired … I did this just to entertain the fans in Japan," added the 41-year-old.
Meanwhile, recordings from North Korea's state-run television show KRT thousands of people who watched a concert at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang followed by fireworks after the countdown.
In Singapore, the Marina Bay area launched New Year with a dazzling fireworks display across the island's skyline and other festivities nearby.
Landmarks such as The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, the ArtScience Museum and Merlion also lent their facades to light projections during the night.
AROUND THE EARTH
The party atmosphere is set to sweep over big cities in Asia, Europe, Africa and America as the clock crosses past midnight.
A strong political presence has become a key element of the festival, in order to protect crowds that could be targeted at terror and vehicle attacks.
In Moscow, concerts and light shows will be held over the Russian capital, and more than 1,000 ice rinks have been opened for girlfriends.
In Paris, a fireworks and sound and light show under the theme "fraternity" is set to continue on the Champs-Elysées despite plans for further "yellow west" achievements on the famous avenue.
In Berlin, music lovers will be partying to a concert at the Brandenburg Gate, but a popular German tradition of putting fireworks to mark the occasion has been banned in some other cities over security issues.
Britain's capital London will launch the new year by celebrating its relationship with Europe among unrest during the Brexit referendum, voted to leave the EU, with fireworks on the London Eye to play music from the continent's artists.
The Scottish capital Edinburgh's traditional Hogmanay celebrations will also take on a pro-European theme ahead of the year in which the UK will leave the Union.
Revelers in Dubai will flock to see fireworks on the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, while another United Arab Emirates city – Ras al-Khaimah – will attempt to set the Guinness world record for "longest fireworks show".
Rio de Janeiro's famous hill state Christ Redeemer will be brought to 3D life with special light projections before fireworks illuminate the city's Copacabana beach, where about two million revelers, many dressed in white, will celebrate until dawn.
Looking forward to 2019
As world parties, many will also look forward to 2019 and wonder if the turmoil observed during the previous year will flush over to the next.
The political quarrel in Westminster over Brexit was one of the main stories this year, with a solution not yet reached before scheduled March 29.
US President Donald Trump dominated headlines in 2018 when he encountered his trade war with China, joined the Iran nuclear object, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and met his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un in Singapore for a historic summit.
North Korea's nuclear nuclear commitment will remain a major political and security issue next year, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reassertion of control following Trump's shock military recall notice.
The war in Yemen, which began in 2014 and has already killed around 10,000 people and left 20 million at risk of hunger, could take a decisive turn after a cease-fire came into force in mid-December.
Many countries go to the polls in 2019, with key choices in India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.
Key events on the calendar include the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the Cricket One-day International World Cup in England and the Atletics World Championships in Qatar.