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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sydney will defy predictions of a gloomy 2009 with its biggest ever New Year party and midnight fireworks display on Wednesday, watched by an expected 1.5 million revelers on the glittering harbor and surrounds.
The theme for the celebrations will be "Creation" and the centerpiece a pyrotechnic storm over Australia's biggest city, with firework simulations of lightning, thunder and rain, all linked to Aboriginal creation myths.
"(It's) looking at what's happened before, where we're going as a nation," creative director Rhoda Roberts said.
About 120,000 firework shells and shooting comets will be exploded in the $3.45 million display to be launched from barges, buildings and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
The party, one of the first to kick off New Year celebrations around the world, comes against economist warnings that up to one million Australians will be unemployed by the end of 2009 as joblessness spikes from 4.4 percent to near 8 percent.
Melbourne, Australia's second-biggest city, was also seeking to defy the rocky economic outlook and rival Sydney with a $3.2 million sell-out "oak of love" dance party attracting 40,000 revelers dressed in white to an indoor arena.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would not be joining the main celebrations as the center-left government looked ahead to dealing with the fallout of the financial crisis and protecting jobs in 2009.
Reporting by Rob Taylor, editing by Dean Yates