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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 11:59 GMT
UK's party of the century

Beacon Beacons lit at sundown will herald the moment

The UK is ready for its biggest party yet to welcome the new millennium - despite a ticket fiasco at the dome and the last-minute cancellation of the London Eye launch.

Into 2000
Hitches aside one thing is clear - nothing will stop people across the nation partying away the final hours of the 20th Century.

Some will attend organised events, some will stay at home to watch ground-breaking non-stop broadcasts, while others will join together at traditional street parties, ignoring forecasts of rain around midnight.

The celebrations begin at 1000GMT as the Chatham Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Kiribati all claim to be first to experience the millennium.

kiribati Choirs in Kiribati will sing in celebration
Samoa will be the last place to welcome in 2000, 25 hours later.

In between, extravagant celebrations will take place all over the world, but none will be more highly organised than in the UK, where London is the centre of the revelry.

The Queen will officially open the 758m Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, south London, watched by millions of TV viewers around the world.

She will arrive by boat along the River Thames and join 10,000 invited guests, including Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

Celebrity guests will be joined by about 6,000 members of the public, although many have not yet received their tickets.

Further down the River Thames, the Millennium Wheel will not take passengers but the official opening will still go ahead.

At the last minute, one of the capsules failed a safety check.

The final touches are also being put to events in other parts of the UK.

dome preview Specially invited guests will spend the evening at the Dome
In Scotland, where New Year always heralds a giant party, music will provide much of the entertainment with ceilidhs being held around the country.

In Edinburgh performances will come from the Royal National Scottish Orchestra, pop group Texas, and old favourites the Bay City Rollers.

In Wales, a giant beacon in Cardiff will be the centrepiece for the country's millennium celebrations.

Beacons will also blaze in Northern Ireland, on Ben Nevis in Scotland, and on the River Thames in London.

In Liverpool, the nightclub Cream is hosting a dance party with Fat Boy Slim and Pete Tong while The Christians and Echo and the Bunnymen give a free concert in the city.

In Birmingham, people will gather in Centenary and Victoria Squares where giant screens will show Cliff Richard in concert at the National Indoor Arena.

Celebrations in Manchester include a huge fireworks display at Castlefield, while up to 10,000 people will watch a parade and the lighting of a beacon at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.

'River of Fire'

The RAC has urged motorists to keep away from the centre of London where a traffic limitation zone will begin to be installed from 0900 on Friday to help the celebrations run smoothly.

Big Ben All eyes will be on Big Ben at midnight
"We advise people to leave their cars well outside the zone and complete their journeys by public transport," a spokesman said.

Crowds of millions are expected to converge on the Thames in London for the Big Time Millennium.

Funfairs, music, dancing, and street entertainment will run from 1100GMT until 0200GMT New Year's Day, spanning the area from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge.

At midnight, a 60m high "River of Fire", created by pyrotechnic candles, will speed along the Thames in 10.8 seconds, followed by a fireworks display.

Patrolling the celebrations will be thousands of police officers - all leave was cancelled for the big night.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said forces were keeping "open minds" about any possible problem areas.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  UK
Papers ponder end of a century
31 Dec 99 |  UK
In pictures: The millennium countdown
30 Dec 99 |  UK
Revellers prepare to sing in the rain
31 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Pop stars prepare to party
30 Dec 99 |  UK
Millennium wheel fails safety test
29 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Scots set for Hogmanay to remember
29 Dec 99 |  UK
Millennium Flame alights in London
30 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Plans for biggest party ever
29 Dec 99 |  Wales
Millennium beacon ready for big night
30 Dec 99 |  UK
Sexy swingers await the Queen
30 Dec 99 |  UK
The new year's resolution

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