SYDNEY - Sydney promised an unprecedented spectacular to kick off global New Year celebrations Tuesday, the first in a wave of pyrotechnics to usher in 2014 from Hong Kong to world record-chasing Dubai.
Tonnes of explosives will light up Australia's biggest city, with fireworks shooting off the Opera House for the first time in more than 10 years as part of the December 31 extravaganza, focused on the Harbour Bridge.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said the Aus$6 million show ($6.8 million), themed "Shine", was expected to attract 1.6 million spectators.
"We are ready to host the world's best New Year's Eve on the world's most beautiful harbour," Moore told reporters.
A record three fireworks displays will take place through the evening, with Moore promising the show - biodegradable and using recycled water - would be "bigger than ever".
Dubai is hoping to break the Guinness World Record for the largest display, pledging to set off more than 400,000 fireworks. Kuwait set the mark in 2011 with an hour-long blast of 77,282 fireworks.
Before that cities across Asia will hail the New Year, with Hong Kong boasting the biggest-ever countdown show for the Chinese city.
Fireworks will soar from skyscrapers and a one-kilometre line of barges along Victoria Harbour in a "wish upon a star" tourism board show.
In Japan, shoppers were busy buying crabs, tuna sashimi and other delicacies to feast in the New Year, with noodle shops doing an especially brisk trade.
Eating noodles on New Year's Eve is regarded in Japan as a symbolic act to wish for a long life.
Millions of people were due to visit shrines and temples through to early morning in massive, yet quiet tradition, paying their first annual respects and praying for peace for relatives.
However, in areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, celebrations were muted.
In Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the November 8 storm, officials were preparing a midnight fireworks display to try to boost spirits, despite nearly 8,000 dead or missing.
Aid agencies are also organising free concerts or distributing food for the traditional New Year's Eve dinner, an AFP reporter said.