Human Interest

The Times Square Ball, the final light of 2020

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York, Dec 28 (efe-epa).- The Times Square Ball Drop is an annual institution in New York City but in this year of pandemic, people will be more eager than ever to see this huge sphere come to rest to mark the start of 2021.

The ball will spend the final 60 seconds of 2020 descending a 24-meter pole atop One Times Square tower while the last 10 seconds of the year are traditionally sung out by onlookers, many of whom seal the end of the year with a kiss.

This year, the construction comprises 2,688 crystal triangles, 32,256 LED lights capable of illuminating a palette of over 16 million colors and weighs over five metric tons.

“We all want 2020 to pass as fast as possible, five, four, three, two, it’s here, yes!” Jeffrey Straus, the president of Countdown Entertainment and the person who will oversee the drop of the 3.6 meter-wide ball at 11:59 pm on 31 December, tells Efe with a smile.

Straus adds that six technicians will be in charge of making sure everything goes to plan, as it has done since 1907, save for a two-year break between 1942-43 during World War II.


The emblematic New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square goes back to 1904, when the then-editor of The New York Times, Adolph Ochs, wanted to organize a fireworks display on the roof of the newspaper’s new office building, where it was due to move the following day.

However, it was not until three years later that the crystal ball, then weighing just 317 kilograms, measuring a meter-and-a-half across and comprising around 100 white bulbs, made an appearance.

The object was inspired by other time balls, such as the one perched atop the Royal Observatory in London, which descends a pole every day between midday and 1 pm GMT, a mechanism that, before modern technology, would allow sailors to set their chronometers.

The Times Square Ball has been modified over the decades, with different materials and designs, including a stint as a big apple — an homage to the city itself — in the 1980s until it settled on its current form in 2007, which marked its centenary year.

Nowadays, the design of the ball falls to crystal company Waterford and lighting company Philips.


“Thanks to Waterford we have the largest crystal ball in the world (…) it weighs nearly six tons, over 12 feet in diameter. It’s truly an engineering miracle that they put together, and the entire world watches as this ball drops to bring in the New Year. We all count down together as one wherever we are,” Straus adds.

Before it takes to the stage for New Year’s Eve, technicians from Waterford must carry out the traditional changing of the crystals.

Each year, the 192 triangles that make up the giant ball undergo a facelift that represents hope for the coming year.

“This year’s design is a gift of happiness, it’s represented by a sunburst that radiates outward with warmth and happiness to everything it touches,” Straus says.


Normally hundreds of thousands of people would gather to watch the annual display in Times Square but this year, due to Covid-19, crowds are being asked to stay away, although there will be live performances, including one by singer Gloria Gaynor, who is to sing “I will survive.”

Tom Harris, senior vice-president of the Times Square Alliance, says: “This year we’re honoring the everyday heroes, the people whose creativity, courage, and spirit help get us through 2020.”

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