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All eyes on the South Bank at the New Year

London SE1 website team

A midnight firework display at the London Eye is the centrepiece of London's New Year celebrations organised by the Mayor of London, but police are encouraging Londoners to think twice before gathering in central London on Wednesday night.

"London is always a wonderful place to spend New Year and for the first time since the Millennium, we will be hosting a fireworks display for Londoners and visitors to enjoy" says Mayor Ken Livingstone. "Around 60,000 are expected in area around the London Eye, plus other places to see it around the capital. Thanks to the BBC broadcasting it live, everyone will be able to see it, wherever they have access to a TV screen, including overseas.

The Mayor's firework display is part of a major drive to promote London's attractions to Londoners and throughout the world: "As well as the midnight display, there are visual displays on landmark buildings thanks to Brightening Up London and Shell Electric Storm's multi-coloured light and mist show amongst the trees on the South Bank.

"The aim is to underline London's status as one of the most exciting places to be on New Year's Eve – and throughout the year. The success of this year's celebrations will help kick start 2004 for Londoners and visitors alike, and set a precedent that I would like to see grow in future years."

The display at the London Eye will take place at midnight and begin on the twelfth stroke of Big Ben. It is planned to last three minutes and is part of a major drive to promote New Year and the capital's attractions to Londoners and visitors.

Earlier this month a row erupted when Mayor Livingstone appealed for crowds to stay away from the firework display, which he says is primarily intended as a "visual image to broadcast around the world".

The police service is reinforcing the mayor's message. Assistant Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met's spokesman for New Year's Eve, said: "Traditionally many people gather in Central London to see in the New Year, despite there being no attractions and no shelter from the harsh weather conditions.

"This year the Mayor has arranged a brief firework display to mark midnight.  This will be televised live and you will be able to see it on a TV wherever you are.  I would advise anyone who is planning to come into Central London on December 31st to think carefully beforehand.  Substantial crowds do gather and this is not an appropriate environment for children or pets.

"Lots of the pubs, restaurants and clubs are ticket only and do sell out well in advance – please do not arrive on the night ticket less and expect to get in somewhere.  Whatever you do this New Year's Eve be careful and keep safe."

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