How London Eye's new year display dazzled the world

Move over Sydney!

The London Eye was opened in 1999 for the Milennium and will remain in the great city for decades to come, and the British have discovered that it is a great focal point for their New Year's celebrations, just as the Aussies concentrate theirs on Sydney Harbour Bridge.

London's New Year's celebrations, once mocked as pathetic (its celebrations to see in the year 2000 went disastrously wrong), are now the best in the world......

The Times

January 02, 2007

Now the best in the world: Creating a lavish new year firework display has become internationally competitive, with London striving to rival Sydney, New York and Berlin (David Bebber/The Times)

How London's display dazzled the world

Joanna Bale

It cost 1.3 million to put on, involved more than 10,000 fireworks and lasted less than ten minutes.

But for a city still trying to live down its disastrous “River of Fire” display on Millennium Eve, London yesterday had to thank the elements as much as the organisers for its New Year’s Eve redemption.

Magnificent: The London Eye, the world's biggest ferris wheel, becomes the world's biggest catherine wheel during the New Year celebrations. It was opened in 1999 and was recently voted the world's best tourist attraction.

Those behind the event, which spectators said was the most impressive ever seen in the capital, admitted that the wind that had shut down celebrations across Scotland and northern Britain had improved London’s display dramatically.

It blew away the smoke that often clouds views of the display, making the fireworks seem far brighter than usual.

Christophe Berthonneau, the French pyrotechnician who created the show in partnership with Jack Morton Worldwide (JMW), said: “I was very pleased because the weather was so windy, which helped to make the colours even brighter.

“Last year there was a lot of smoke hanging in the air, which got thicker and thicker. Even though we used the same high-quality Spanish fireworks in both displays, the colours were more vibrant this year because of the wind. It took place between two showers, so we were very lucky.”

It is the fourth New Year’s Eve fireworks organised by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, whose budget for the event has increased from 1 million in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2006. Jim Donald, of JMW, said: “We have been trying to put London on the map to compete with Sydney and New York and many believe we have got there. Sydney has always been known for its big fireworks displays, but London and New York are now rivalling Sydney.

“We used the best-quality fireworks, handmade in Barcelona. The chemicals create much better colours than the mass- produced Chinese fireworks. We didn’t use a huge amount; it was what we did with them that made the difference.”

A team of 20 riggers placed fireworks on all the brackets of the London Eye and on barges and boats in the Thames.

Mr Berthonneau first became interested in pyrotechnics while working as a theatre designer. He said: “There is no formal training. I became interested in the effects of fire and just learnt by experimenting.

“You need a lot of patience to do displays like this because it takes months of work for just a ten-minute display. It’s a very tense occasion because there is so much that can go wrong. It’s a very precise job.”

The display began with loud, dramatic shells going off between Big Ben’s chimes at midnight. There followed a red, white and blue sequence, then two speedboats crossing the Thames, which appeared as if they were on fire. A rainbow effect was followed by the finale — a large whiteout.

Mr Berthonneau said: “We have used the London Eye before, but it was very different from previous displays in terms of colour, rhythm and lighting.”

Onlookers praised the display as London’s best ever. Kenneth Hibbert, 45, an accountant from Neasden, northwest London, said: “I was there on Millennium Eve and this was so much better. I think we can rival the displays of Sydney, New York and Paris now.”

Police estimate that 350,000 people, the highest number since the millennium celebrations, travelled into the capital for the display. London Ambulance staff dealt with the highest number of emergency calls since the millennium, most of them alcohol-related. Between midnight and 4am, the London Ambulance Service dealt with 1,562 calls, up 8 per cent on the same period last year. At the busiest period staff were taking more than 450 calls an hour.

Ancient rituals

Fireworks originated in China 2,000 years ago. The most prevalent legend has it that they were invented by accident by a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen who happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre

A Chinese monk called Li Tian is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. The Chinese celebrate the invention of the firecracker every April 18 by offering sacrifices to Li. During the Song Dynasty, the local people established a temple to worship him

Firecrackers are used to fend off evil spirits, who are frightened by the loud bangs, at most events, such as births, deaths, birthdays and the Chinese new year

Marco Polo is credited with bringing Chinese gunpowder back to Europe in the 13th century, although some accounts credit the Crusaders

Fireworks became very popular in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Shakespeare mentions fireworks in his plays, and fireworks were so much enjoyed by the Queen that she created the position of Fire Master of England.

King James II was so pleased with the fireworks display that celebrated his coronation that he knighted his Fire Master


After the Millennium flop, London's New Year's Eve fireworks more than lived up to expectations








Whilst all this was going on, London's greatest rival - Paris - had to make do with a glittering Eiffel Tower. Fireworks were banned in the French capital as the French government doesn't trust its people with fireworks. And surely no other European country produced a greater show.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 2nd, 2007 at 02:35 PM..
Awesome photos. I've been to the London Eye.
I was in Montreal for the new years and it was fun. They know how to party in Montreal! Good food, good wine, and good girls!
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