Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Years Eve 25 Years Ago: 1991 (With a special VIP visitor)

Above: Hoodlums and drunks were read the riot act as the reports from the December 31, 1991 edition of The Daily Telegraph Mirror show. 
It is the last day of 2016 and its time to wind back the clock 25 years to 1991 to see how Sydney farewelled 1991 marked the start of 1992. Yes, we have come such a long way as I remind readers each year. But while celebrations were not as grand as today, there was a very special visitor that decided to attend. He was US President George Herbert Walker Bush who was visiting Sydney as part of a tour of the Asia-Pacific Region.

To me, the idea of a president being on a tour on New Year's Eve just seems odd to me because usually, the American President is enjoying a break of the Christmas New Year Period. Barack Obama, for instance, likes to be in Hawaii at this time of year. His visit dominated news coverage. The fireworks were second fiddle.

Bush arrived that evening in Sydney on Air Force One before the Presidential Limousine drove him from Sydney Airport to Rose Bay where he boarded a boat to take him to Admiralty House at Kirribilli where a New Years Eve took place. Prime Minister Paul Keating and Governor General Bill Hayden were present. Security on Sydney Harbour was tight. Below is a Youtube Video from Nightline (Nine Network) on December 31, 1991, providing an overview of his arrival in Sydney. Also, there is some footage of the finale of the Skyshow from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


No visiting World Leader since has seen Sydney's famous fireworks display. This is rare. For the rest of us, we had to scramble for other viewing points around the city to admire the thirty-minute fireworks display at 9pm. There was no midnight show like we see today.

Below is some of the advertising promoting the fireworks spectacular - Skyshow 3. No mention of Bush visiting at all.

Like in the previous shows, the Skyshow was the launch event for the Festival of Sydney. The estimated cost of the thirty-minute show was $500 000. Unfortunately, it was not televised like today. You had to be there, or you missed out. Don't forget the radio too as 2DAY FM had a special soundtrack to accompany the display.  

Revelers were encouraged to use public transport to join in the festivities in the city. Below is an advertisement for bus and ferry services. Services were to operate through the evening with some services operating around the clock. Organising public transport was a little easier as there were not the street closures we see in central Sydney like now. However, those departing the last ferries from Mosman, Manly and Neutral Bay before the fireworks were in for a treat. Their service would remain moored in the harbour for the duration of the display - all for the price of a normal fare. 

I couldn't find an advertisement for Cityrail, but The Sydney Morning Herald did report that train services would operate until 2am. 

For drivers, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was still open, but if you stopped your car during the show, it would be towed away.

Source: Jackson, S. & English, B. 1992. "Revellers subdued by rain, alcohol ban". The Daily Telegraph Mirror: 6. 

And what about an overview of the night itself? According to The Sydney Morning Herald (January 2, 1992), an estimated 250 000 were reported celebrating in the city around Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, and Darling Harbour. Numbers were "down" due to wet weather but also the alcohol-free zones which scared those needing a drink away. Arrests were down, compared with the year before. Darling Harbour reportedly did not reach the estimated 200 000 attendees. At least 300 000 are reported to be attending this year at the same location.