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Even brighter than the moon: Macau's annual fireworks competition is underway

Macau fireworks

It’s difficult to imagine Macau without its mesmerising bright lights. Love them or hate them, they’re part of the furniture of our neighbouring city. This month, however, the SAR will be illuminated for a different reason in the form of the 28th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest. Clunky though the name may be, the month-long contest is always a showstopper, with 10 teams from 10 countries engaging in some very serious pyrotechnical battles this year.

Taking place directly above Macau Tower, the various fireworks shows occur over five nights – September 3, 10, 15 and 24, and October 1. Each evening is themed, both in terms of fireworks and their accompanying soundtracks – because a fireworks show isn’t really a fireworks show without a soundtrack. Indeed, each team is required to choreograph their pyrotechnic displays to both music and laser lights in order to better represent the themes for the evening and to make it a more immersive display. As well as synchronisation with the soundtrack, judging is based on sizing and balance, visual structure and rhythm, and technical precision.

The contest pits some of the most impressive fireworks companies in the world against one another, with representatives from three continents. New to the event this year are teams from Canada and Romania. The former, Quebec outfit Feux d’artifice Orion, has staged more than 80 pyrotechnic displays around the world each year since 1999 – most recently collecting first prize at last year's World Championships in Blackpool, England. The Canucks mean serious business but Romania’s Pyro-Technic Transilvania are out to prove that their hometown has more to offer the world than just Count Dracula. The Romanians perform against China on October 1, the final night of the contest and National Day of the PRC. We expect a fair bit of red to dominate the sky that evening.

While the routines are a closely guarded secret, it’s a cert that we can look forward to some impressive shows. With more than 80 years’ experience in fireworks, and former winners of the competition, Portuguese crew Macedos Pirotecnia once held the world record for the biggest fireworks display to have ever taken place. Representing the UK are Pyro 2000. Though their name might need an update, Pyro’s work certainly doesn’t, specialising as they do in orchestrating fireworks to live music. They’re also the creatives behind the world-famous fireworks at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Other shows to watch out for include that of Japanese troupe Marutamaya Ogatsu Fireworks. This company has over 150 years’ experience in the world of fireworks and is renowned for its Edo-Tokyo style, which combines modern innovation with traditional pyrotechnic techniques dating from the 17th century. Last year’s champions, Hunan Jingtai Fireworks Company, are returning to wow the crowds once more. Hailing from China’s home of fireworks, they’re strutting their stuff on the event’s last night and closing the competition with a bang – literally – displaying under the appropriately titled theme ‘Celebration in the Sky’, which promises to be even brighter than the moon.

You can see the show from just about anywhere in Macau but the city’s new creative hub, Anim’Arte Nam Van, is our pick for best vantage point. With unobstructed views across to Macau Tower, the lakeside destination ought to be the centre of the action. There’re even a craft market and various creative and cultural retail spaces staying open during the festival. It might not be the fourth of July or November 5, but otherwise, this is as good as it gets.

For more information on the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, visit fireworks.macaotourism.gov.mo.

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