Opinion: Sydney Still NYE Capital Of The World But Has Paris Now Overtaken Them For Best Annual Fireworks Display?

THIS ARTICLE HAS SINCE BEEN UPDATED (4:30PM 03/09/2019 AEST) FOLLOWING INITIAL PUBLICATION AT 8PM 02/09/2019.
That’s right – this is a big call.

For those who remember it, the Millennium was a moment of global unity.

While Rio De Janerio brang the biggest crowds (and they still do), 2 other cities rang in the new Millennium with what were called the best fireworks displays of the night (or the last Millennium). These cities were Sydney and Paris.

Paris was ranked 2nd on the night. The display was done by Groupe F and the countdown of the display replicated a rocket launch with the rocket (or Tower) lifting off at Midnight, taking Paris into the new Millennium (Video below does not feature the fireworks soundtrack):

Sydney’s though will be remembered for an Eternity.

Sydney’s display featured the Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House, city buildings, pontoons in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and 4 barges along the Harbour, 2 in the west and 2 in the east. That display was mostly done by Syd Howard Fireworks though the western barges were coordinated by Foti International Fireworks, who have done every Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) since.

The display, 25 minutes long, double the length of post-2005 displays, celebrated 2 themes – time and Sydney – in a phrase Sydney’s Millennium. It celebrated humanity’s history, beginning with a big bang of sorts and after the traditional Auld Lang Syne, launched into a History Of Pop, featuring 60 significant songs of the 20th century (in roughly chronological order) as well as moments of Australian & international importance like The Dismissal & Apollo 11. After then, it celebrated Australia with a remix of Down Under and Yothu Yindi songs. Encapsulting the universality of the moment, which is best represented by the iconic ‘Smiley Face’ Bridge Effect,  which was used in most of the show, What A Wonderful World was then played. The rest of the songs represented modern music (Itacycoo Park), time (One Of These Days & History Repeating) & the best fireworks finale ever (Let’s Go Crazy).

Swan Lake then launched the finale. The finale symbolised the dramatic present (the start of a new Millennium) and the future with the iconic rainbow at the end launching the timeline of the display into an Eternity – a word written around Sydney by Arthur Stace from the 1930’s. Bells then rang from St Andrew’s & Mary’s Cathedrals for the 1st time ever on NYE celebrating the new Millennium.

No doubt Sydney’s millennium display was iconic not just for the scale of the fireworks but it’s theming & musical choice.

The Millennium formula, which was tested for nearly 3 years prior, was set in stone and remained how Sydney NYE was done until 2014. In 2015, the iconic Bridge Effect, which had since 1997 taken many forms, disappeared for various reasons. Since then, a light show has taken it’s place, which has been a suitable replacement though it doesn’t have the same anticipation about it.

Efforts to make a theme without a Bridge Effect were made by finding a local artist to do an artwork based around a theme, which was successful and have turned the artworks themselves into something that is deserving & worthy of anticipation.

However, today’s revealing of the updated Sydney NYE website for the 2019 edition revealed an artwork by Garbett Design to be used for the next 3 years. The artwork we can say looks amazing and stunning.

You can expect possibly slight changes in the artwork each year depending on circumstances/outcomes of previous editions with the artwork but most of the artwork will be the same for the next 3 years.

Shows this year's Sydney NYE artwork
Sydney NYE2019 Artwork
Artwork: City Of Sydney/Garbett Design

Sadly, the updated website today confirmed that Sydney NYE is now no longer doing themes –  a critical aspect of the event. This is the 1st time this has happened since 1995. The website said this:

Artwork

The spontaneous energy of Sydney and its people inspires the event artwork.

Sydney New Year’s Eve is vibrant, raw and energetic. The spirit of the city is demonstrated in the bright, colourful, flexible and optimistic artwork developed by globally awarded, Sydney-based studio Garbett Design.

Inclusive, celebratory and safe

New Year’s Eve marks endings and anticipates new beginnings. Say goodbye to the old and hello to the new at this festive party for everyone.

The City of Sydney’s gift to the people, Sydney New Year’s Eve is a safe, sustainable event, celebrating local artists before the eyes of the world. Everyone can take part in this uniquely Sydney celebration.

While early December used to be the most likely day to reveal the theme, it seems very unlikely now that a theme will be announced in early December as recent years have had the theme revealed on the website a lot earlier.

It is now essentially just a fireworks display for at least 3 years as the light show & same artwork is being used for the next 3 years, the 2020 & 2021 editions have nothing to anticipate for apart from the fireworks soundtrack. The fireworks soundtrack will never go as modern technology ensures it is to stay plus nearly all fireworks displays nowadays have soundtracks. But the theming, which is decided by humans alone, will no longer be. It seems Sydney NYE has moved from being a creative celebration to a government marketing promotion for Sydney and this spells trouble. Events known for their creativity and moving towards a marketing or messaging approach are destined for failure. Like we have mentioned many times before, just look at the Closing Ceremony of the XXIst Commonwealth Games – Gold Coast 2018.

Back to Paris. The Eiffel Tower has remained unused on NYE ever since, though since 2018, the Arc De Triumphe has been used for projections and fireworks. However, that will never beat Sydney. In 2009, to celebrate the Eiffel Tower’s 120th anniversary, the Eiffel Tower was used as part of Paris’s Bastille Day celebrations. They added projections to the show this time and included a little reference to the Millennium display:

The only fault with the display was the Eiffel Tower’s reintroduction was not emotionally powerful. It wasn’t the best display but it utilized Sydney’s strengths as well as the emerging technology of projection mapping, which at this time was making it’s Sydney Opera House debut at the 1st Vivid Sydney. Notable is the strong usage of theming – the display told the history of the Eiffel Tower from 1885 – the year the concept plans of the Eiffel Tower were presented to the Society of Civil Engineers.

Clearly, Paris liked the display so 4 years later, they brought back the Eiffel Tower fully back (partially & briefly for red stationary flares in 2013) and have kept it as part of the fireworks since. The 2014 display, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, saw Groupe F produce what we think is the greatest pyrotechnic display ever done. It solved all the problems of the 2009 display and it is a display Sydney would be proud of. Sydney’s 2013 International Fleet Review Spectacular probably follows in 2nd place. Their 2014 display, titled War & Peace tells the story of France since 1914 and also features acrobatics & circus acts and brilliant cinematography from France Television:

Groupe F has since produced nearly all future Eiffel Tower displays. Some other companies have done these displays but you can tell the difference in quality. However, all years since 2013 (and maybe even some before then) have had a theme!:

  • 2013 – Freedom, Equality, Fraternity
  • 2014 – War & Peace*
  • 2015 – Paris Welcomes The World*
  • 2016 – Paris Is 1 Party*
  • 2017 – Olympism
  • 2018 – Love*
  • 2019 – Federation Party

*Groupe F show

This makes every Bastille Day distinctly different! Other years are below for your viewing:

The 2018 & 2019 displays have been geoblocked to Australia so we can’t see them. The 2017 display has been made a private video too.  But a documentary was made on how Groupe F produce the 2018 show:

If anyone in France is reading this and can provide us a copy of these displays and/or a full translation into English of the documentary, that would be appreciated.

The Eiffel Tower was also used for fireworks 3 times before the Millennium – for it’s 100th anniversary (1989, where it also featured lasers & acrobatics), the opening (1889) and during construction (Yes, during construction in 1887!).

Paris has never gone to the effort of trying to beat Sydney. Sydney’s local & state governments have just taken NYE for granted now. It’s all about marketing, messaging & money rather than celebration, community & creativity.

Sydney has inspired the USA, China, France & the UK to do similar displays.

In fact, New York (with the Brooklyn Bridge) in 1983 inspired Sydney to use the Sydney Harbour Bridge, who since 2014, have inspired New York to bring back the Brooklyn Bridge into fireworks displays. That’s right – if New York keeps improving their displays, their Macy’s July the 4th Fireworks, which once again feature the Brooklyn Bridge could rival Sydney but New York still needs a lot of improvement (Mind you, we’re not American so maybe their cultural preferences suit their display – It’s their national day after all).

The UK even copied Sydney’s own method of Olympic success by also using their NYE celebrations as a ‘test event’ for the Olympics. With Paris due to host the Olympics in 2024, would Paris capitalise on the Eiffel Tower’s fireworks growth and use it on NYE in a couple of years time as an annual ‘test event’ in the lead up to the Games? Maybe they would use the Eiffel Tower like Sydney used in the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the Closing Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics? If so, they will smash Sydney in NYE stakes as Paris’s annual displays looks distinctly different. Sydney isn’t so much anymore.

For the record, we are not saying Foti International Fireworks lack creativity. Unlike Paris, Sydney’s fireworks companies have always specialised in just fireworks with other creativity coming from external sources. Groupe F of Paris has expertise in not just fireworks but acrobatics, projections, lights etc. And that’s a major difference. Foti Fireworks still produce brilliant pyrotechnic displays. It’s just their appointers, the City Of Sydney & the NSW Government, are completely using Sydney NYE as a cash cow instead of a creative masterpiece. The overall event will decline in quality rapidly as a result.

Paris is on the rise, Sydney is on the decline. It isn’t Paris’s fault that Sydney isn’t as exciting as it used to be. It is purely Sydney’s own fault.

In other news from the updated website:

  • A disclaimer now appears upon accessing the Vantage Points webpage. No doubt to remove the City Of Sydney from any associations with commercialisation of the event.
  • It might be just us but the ticketed events appear first on the Vantage Points webpage. Hopefully everyone notices there are free vantage points too! (If you are also taken straight to the ticketed events, please let us know so it can be confirmed). However, this shows an increased emphasis on ticketing.
  • East Circular Quay is now free managed access again! YAY! Most likely due to pressure from nearby businesses.
  • Campbell’s Cove has gone from free ticketed to paid ticketed (AUD$10) NAY!
  • A special ‘Events’ webpage, as revealed last week by the City Of Sydney, shows an emphasis on private 3rd-party events to a scale never seen before. The closest was in 2011 when they did ‘After Midnight’ – a list of venues & private 3rd-party events held after the Midnight Fireworks to visit on your way home.
  • Pre-Show Entertainment and the whole event now starts at 6:50pm.  Recent previous editions started at 6pm with an aerial display.

Most of these dot points’ show the events’ purpose is shifting from one of creativity to one of commercialisation. Some improvement, but still as dramatic a decline as last year due to North Sydney now being ticketed as confirmed last month by North Sydney Council.

What do you think? Tell us what you think in our poll. That would truly tell if Sydney has stuffed up NYE.

‘Sydney Spectaculars’ To End

It is the blog this time.

This blog had to end sometime. We also want to leave on a high.

Over the past 18 months, we have published articles speculating the end of the 2 main ‘Sydney Spectaculars’: Vivid Sydney & Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE).

We also made a Facebook post questioning the creativity of Sydney New Year’s Eve nowadays.

And who can forget this?

All of these combined make us believe this is the ‘peak’ of Sydney Spectaculars – the 2017 editions of Vivid Sydney & Sydney New Year’s Eve.

Our Vivid Sydney article came true this year with the 1st ever drop of attendance in Vivid’s history. It was less of a drop than we predicted (prediction – about 1,000,000; actual – about 20,000) but nevertheless, it was the first ever attendance drop for Vivid Sydney.

Sydney NYE has also had it’s attendance drop by a million since 2013. However, we believe that was due to reasons not related to the popularity of the event.

As we wrote in our article, with the rapid ticketing of the event this year and the potential ‘full’ ‘commercialisation’ of the event possibly into the next few years, Australian taxpayers & Sydney ratepayers though may question their funding of the event leaving the future of the event in the balance as these people will likely want to be able to enter an event they are funding for.

The media launch of Sydney NYE2018 – The Pulse Of Sydney a few days ago also revealed a massive budget decline for the event. Last year was AUD$7 million, now it is AUD$6 million – a drop of about a million Australian dollars.

Some of that drop can be attributed to the cancellation of the Very Important Person Viewing Area at Hickson Road Reserve this year.

Whilst what we published in our article is concerning for the event’s future, there is a possibility that most Sydneysiders won’t realise what we detailed in the article until the morning of the event prompting anger from Sydneysiders who thought that access to most of the good vantage points were still mostly based on who arrived at the location first – not who reserved tickets first. They might then realise that there are not really any good vantage points left to access (even though there are still vantage points left to access) further accelerating that anger especially since they planned a day of looking a good view.

Some might even just give up and go home and watch it on television or the Internet.

And that anger might mar this year’s event.

In the end, it depends on how many Sydneysiders attend the event on the day and how aware they are of the newly ticketed vantage points.

Regardless of what happens, we do not want to write articles about the slow decline of these 2 major events.

We provided warnings in the form of our 2 articles and it’s up to the City Of Sydney & Destination New South Wales to respond accordingly.

In 2016, we were in the midst of writing a warning about the potential of a crowd crush disaster at Vivid Sydney, when that exact thing occurred. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. So our warnings should be heeded. We don’t want to write an article every few months stating ‘Vivid & Sydney NYE have problems. Fix them before it’s too late. Don’t know how? Here is our advice’.

Most of all, we don’t want to have to write an article saying ‘The party is cancelled…permanently…again’ or ‘The lights are off…permanently’. That would be a sad day.

But a good reason to stop writing articles is that it frees up room to upload more historical footage of these events.

Viewing historical footage of these events is what most visitors do our blog so we’ve decided to turn our site more into a ‘museum’ of the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’.  For starters, we will slowly move the videos on our YouTube channel (which eventually we will remove) to this website & of course, add this to this website videos of this and future year’s Sydney NYE, Vivid Sydney & other ‘Sydney Spectaculars’. We will update each event edition’s page with new information when it is available instead of posting the media releases in full from now. So, for this year’s Sydney NYE only, we will provide updates on that event edition’s fireworks soundtrack page as well as by posting on Facebook a direct link to the media releases as they arrive. Every other edition of a ‘Sydney Spectacular’ will have updates on their event edition’s page only.

Also, here is some information about this year’s Sydney NYE that you probably missed due to our lack of posts this year:

  • There is a chance there will only be 2 pyrotechnic displays in Sydney NYE for the 1st time since 2007 as fireworks are not mentioned in the descriptions for the Welcome To Country/Indigenous Smoking Ceremony at 7:30pm or the new Calling Country immediately after the 9pm Family Fireworks.
  • There is a high chance the 10 year Royal Australian Mint partnership with Sydney NYE to produce a yearly Sydney NYE coin has ended after 5 years. The coins are usually revealed in early November (except in the 1st year when it was revealed at the event’s media launch). If the coin isn’t revealed on December 31st, that pretty much guarantees these coins have ceased being minted.

There may be more information (which if there is, we will publish here) but we are pretty confident the rest was covered in the media launch a few days ago.

And, for the record, no information about the fireworks soundtracks has been revealed yet.

In the future, we will also still answer all questions that you send to us.

Again, apologies to all our Sydney Spectaculars followers for not posting any stories and responding to queries received over the past 9 months. We will respond to the queries received over the past 9 months shortly.

Lastly, we want to thank all our followers. It is nice to know there is an audience out there who consider Sydney NYE as more than ‘just a fireworks display’. The blog wouldn’t have been worth writing without you all. From 2011, when we began as a YouTube channel display historic footage of Sydney NYE, your requests for information about the next year’s theme, fireworks soundtracks and more led to the creation of this full blog, which coincided with the addition of Vivid Sydney and an expansion of the meaning of what can be considered as a ‘Sydney Spectacular’. This made the blog an all-year exercise. Whilst we know you are all still enthusiastic about the events, we believe the events are about to begin a decline and that’s why we believe it’s a good time to finish blogging. We don’t want to write, over many years, the decline of these events.

If the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ are on the way up again, the blog may resume in the future…maybe. So we are still hoping things will improve.

To conclude, we hope you all have a happy new year!

So What Music Do You Think Will Be Played When The Rainbow Waterfall Drops?

Here are your answers!

A pyrotechnic rainbow waterfall will fall off the Sydney Harbour Bridge during this year’s Midnight Fireworks as part of Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) 2017 – Wonder and the ‘heralding of a new dawn for equality’.

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said it celebrates Australians saying ‘Yes’ to marriage equality:

“The rainbow waterfall is a well-earnt tribute to the Sydney 78ers who marched for gay rights 40 years ago – it is a reminder of how far we have come & how far we have left to achieve true equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & intersex (LGBTI) community. It is a wonderful way to ring in the new year & celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras

The rainbow waterfall replaces the golden waterfall this year in the Midnight Fireworks. It is a break in tradition but it is not without precedence. The golden waterfall has been replaced in:

    • Sydney NYE2000 – 100 Years As A Nation, Millions Of Years As A Land: Silver To Gold Waterfall
    • Sydney NYE2002 – The World’s Celebration In Union: Green & White Strobing Angelic Waterfall
    • Sydney NYE2005 –  Heart Of The Harbour: Red To White Strobing Angelic Waterfall
    • Sydney NYE2006 – A Diamond Night In Emerald City: – Green Strobing Angelic Waterfall

The golden waterfall is the iconic moment of the Sydney NYE event and consequently, the Midnight Fireworks. All editions of Sydney NYE have had the golden waterfall drop in the major closing Bridge sequence because of the emotional impact it delivers as part of the finale particularly when heard with the official soundtrack. The soundtrack of the waterfall, thus, has to be one of major emotional impact. Previous golden waterfall drops have featured these music pieces to give an idea of the type of music that usually accompanies it:

  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Sunrise – Richard Strauss
  • The Ring Of The Nibelung: The Valkyrie: Ride Of The Valkyries – Richard Wagner
  • Marche Slave Op.31 – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Swan Lake – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  •  The Man From Snowy River (Olympic Version) – Bruce Rowland
  •  Pines Of Rome: The Pines of the Appian Way – Ottorino Respighi
  • Advance Australia Fair/Waltzing Matilda (Hylton Mowday Remix) – Peter Dodds McCormick & Banjo Paterson
  • Organ Concerto: Third Movement – Saint Saens
  • Slavsia, Slavsia – Mikhail Glinka/Symphony Of A Thousand – Gustav Mahler
  • Firebird Suite: Lullaby – Igor Stravinsky
  • Vincero: Nessun Dorma – Giacorno Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini
  • Sydney NYE Finale 2012 – Michael Yezerski vs. s:amplify
  • On A Night Like This – Kylie Minogue
  • OblivionM83 featuring Susanne Sundfør
  • Chandelier – Sia
  • Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
  • Hymn For The Weekend (featuring Beyonce) – Coldplay

See videos of previous displays to see how the music & waterfall is timed for emotional impact.

As you can see, most are instrumental music pieces from the classical or soundtrack genres. This was the case pre-NYE2013 with the exception of NYE2004. Since NYE2013, vocal songs from either the pop or soundtrack genres have featured.

But this year’s rainbow waterfall has extra meaning (see above) so there is a possibility that the music has been chosen with this in mind. However, it is not guaranteed: the fireworks soundtrack is finalised in September & if it has been done purely for the proclamation of Schedule 1, Parts 1-3 & 5 of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, there was no guarantee back in September that the bill would even be introduced in Parliament. Back then, the Marriage Law Postal Survey had only just started.

Either way, it was guaranteed that 2018 celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras. It could have been chosen with that in mind.

It could also just have been chosen to represent the City Of Sydney’s support for LGBTI people. However, it would have been a slightly risky move particularly had the Marriage Law Postal Survey returned a ‘No’ result. Whilst it is the City Of Sydney’s event, to the general public it is Australia’s event. The City Of Sydney treated it as a national event pre-NYE2013 but since then have portrayed it as Sydney’s event. If the rainbow waterfall wasn’t planned to be subtle, it could have been a controversial choice. Good thing a ‘Yes’ result was returned (particularly in the City Of Sydney)!

A rainbow waterfall might also have been coincidentally added due to this year’s colourful artwork as well as the fact that rainbows regularly feature in Sydney NYE fireworks displays recently. If this was the case, any music piece could be a potential candidate.

What You Think

Everyone had a different opinion so there was no stand out choice. These were your suggestions:

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Sunrise – Richard Strauss:

What We Think

People’s suggestions were either of the following:

  • Too controversial
  • Used before in Sydney NYE
  • Not emotional enough
  • Lyrics unrelated to the extra meaning behind the rainbow waterfall

The song Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay would be a good candidate though to appear at any point of the 9pm Family & Midnight Fireworks.

The most likeliest of all the suggestions to drop the rainbow waterfall we think would be I Will Survive – Diana Ross due to the song considered by some as a gay anthem. However, unlike the original version of the song by Gloria Gaynor, there is no good ‘drop point’ for the rainbow waterfall in this version. The original version though has a suitable ‘drop point’ at 01:11 in the music video:

We are guessing though that it will be the song Finally by CeCe Peniston. It was used in the Australian movie, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert as well as in a segment of the Closing Ceremony of The Games Of The XXVIIth Olympiad: Sydney 2000 dedicated to that same movie. The song is about the wait to begin a relationship ending. It was a hit in the 1990’s and popular in clubs as it is a dance song.

If the Midnight Fireworks soundtrack abruptly changes to this song at 00:57 in the music video, when the rainbow waterfall drops, accompanied by a glittering light display off the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it could be the emotional impact that is desired to deliver the message the City Of Sydney is sending to the world. After all, Australia has been debating changes to the Marriage Act 1961 since 2004. It was a long, tiring debate particularly for LGBTI people & the debate and wait is finally over.

So that’s what we think. We might be wrong. We might be right. You all might be wrong. One of you might be right.  The fireworks soundtracks are released tomorrow. We’ll find out then. Maybe.

There is one extra thing about the rainbow waterfall that is unique this year. Who knows? Maybe it will be revealed tomorrow too. However, if it isn’t, don’t expect us to reveal it. We are waiting until the City Of Sydney do if they ever do. If they don’t, we’re leaving it as a surprise to maximise the emotional impact of the Midnight Fireworks for you all.