NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York’s Times Square will bid farewell to 2020 without the usual huddled masses jamming the streets on New Year’s Eve, as celebration organizers on Wednesday responded to the global pandemic with plans for a scaled-back, virtual event.
In a “preliminary teaser” of what was to come on Dec. 31, the Times Square Alliance said that watching the famous ball come down to usher in 2021 will be a digital affair for all but a very limited group of socially distanced, in-person honorees.
“People all over the globe are ready to join New Yorkers in welcoming in the new year with the iconic ball drop,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “A new year means a fresh start, and we’re excited to celebrate.”
The New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square is among the biggest in the world, typically drawing about 1 million people, with more than 1 billion more tuning in on television to watch the lighted ball atop One Times Square descend as the new year arrives.
Many of the details and the live entertainment that make up a good portion of the hours-long celebration leading to the year-end countdown are still being determined, said the Times Square Alliance, which co-produces the event.
But alliance President Tim Tompkins promised viewers “significantly new and enhanced virtual, visual and digital offerings” in a celebration of the “courageous and creative spirits” who helped people get through a year many would just as soon forget.
“No one needs to be reminded of what the dominant news of 2020 has been so far: COVID-19 and a host of racial, economic and climate crises,” he said.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Jonathan Oatis)