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Grand old man of UAE fireworks industry speaks as Dubai set for record show

As the countdown to the world’s largest fireworks display begins, XPRESS brings you the lowdown on the preparations with an exclusive demonstration on how explosives are assembled and readied for a typical show

  • Fireworks master: William PrenticeImage Credit: ATIQ-UR-REHMAN/XPRESS
  • New Year spectacle: Dubai will attempt a world record fireworks display on Palm Jumeirah on December 31Image Credit: GN Archives

DUBAI It’s half past two in the afternoon on December 12 and William Prentice is busy on his cell phone. He is at an explosives site on a desert stretch behind the Global Village, supervising his technicians as they prepare for the 9pm fireworks display.

“Sorry, I had to take these calls,” he tells this reporter. “The last two of the 27 containers for the record New Year fireworks are arriving at the Jebel Ali Port tomorrow. One is from Spain and the other from the United States.”

Known as the grand old man of the UAE’s fireworks industry, Prentice, 77, has a huge responsibility. He is the operations manager at Zarco Exhibition Organisers, under whose licence the world’s most spectacular fireworks and pyrotechnics displays will be held in Dubai on December 31 – at The Palm Jumeirah, World Islands and Burj Khalifa. “We are licensing and working with Fireworks by Grucci, the American company that will be doing all three shows.”

Prentice, whose company does 70 per cent of the UAE’s fireworks including those at the Global Village and Dubai Shopping Festival, says no stone will be left unturned to ensure that Dubai sets the Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display at The Palm this year. The record is held by Kuwait which marked the 50th anniversary of its Constitution on November 10 last year with a 77,282 pyrotechnics display along a 5km seafront lasting 64 minutes.

As Dubai seeks to outdo Kuwait, Prentice said 220 technicians will be working with 450,000 fireworks this year. The display is expected to last six minutes and cover a distance of 99.4km and project the UAE flag, a flying falcon and a 10-km sunrise, among others. “It’s not so much the duration, but the amount of fireworks and area covered … the show will be overwhelming,” says Prentice.

At midnight on December 31, Burj Khalifa will also light up in a pyrotechnics display. Pyrotechnics entail less debris and are used when there is close proximity to an audience. They are controlled by computers, even satellites, and are used for displays that require highly visual presentations of light, sound and heat. Electrically fired fireworks entail just a board with a series of electrical connections to achieve conventional effects with shells, candles, rockets, cakes, mines etc.

Earlier Burj Khalifa displays were being done by a French company, but this year Fireworks by Grucci will be doing the honours. These fireworks can best be seen from Burj Park, Burj Plaza Emaar Boulevard and Downtown Dubai. Being the world’s tallest tower, it will be visible from almost anywhere in Dubai, with Zabeel Park, Shaikh Zayed Road and Al Khail Road offering stunning views.

Vantage points to view the display at The Palm include high rises in Dubai Marina, Dubai Media City, Internet City, hotels at The Palm and the open beach at the entrance of the Palm. Entry to the Palm on New Year’s Eve will, however, be restricted to pass holders.


Behind the scenes of a fireworks display

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Behind the scenes of a fireworks display

Behind the scenes of a fireworks display

 Best sites to watch the biggest fireworks display

Best sites to watch the biggest fireworks display

Latest Comment

Amazing event to watch..can't wait to see..Happy New Year 2014 UAE..


26 December 2013 12:56jump to comments