International landmarks go dark for global Earth Hour
By Mariano Andrade, AFP
March 31, 2014, 12:08 am TWN
NEW YORK--Iconic landmarks around the world were plunged into darkness Saturday as lights went out in thousands of places as part of a global fundraising drive for local environmental projects.
New York's Empire State Building, the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue and Sydney's Opera House were among those blacked out for 60 minutes at 8:30 p.m. local time for the annual Earth Hour.
The world's tallest building, Dubai's 200-story Burj Khalifa also joined the action, which was to include some 7,000 cities and towns in 150 countries by the time the event covers all the planet's time zones.
In New York, the twinkling neon billboards of Times Square went dark along with the Empire State.
Swaths of private buildings in Manhattan also took part, a rarity in the city that famously never sleeps.
Other U.S. cities were also due to follow suit, including the glittering mosaic of the Las Vegas strip.
At the Vatican, before St. Peter's Basilica plunged into darkness, dozens of people shouted out a countdown, including a group of children dressed as Spider-Man — the first ever superhero ambassador for the campaign.
The Singapore-based initiative of conservation group WWF was boosted by Hollywood star power, with "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx leading ceremonies at the city-state's Marina Bay district.
In Paris, a nine-year-old "mini Spider-Man" did the honors at the Eiffel Tower. However, since the tower that symbolizes the City of Light was still open to visitors, its spectacular dancing lights were idled five minutes for security reasons.
In Cape Town, South Africa — WWF's 2014 Earth Hour capital — floodlights powered by energy from a nearby windfarm were trained on Table Mountain in order to be switched off for the observance.
Hong Kong's stunning waterfront skyline was unrecognizable during the event, with the city's tallest skyscraper, the International Commerce Centre, stripped of the vast light show usually wrapped around its 118 floors.
Earth Hour, launched in Sydney in 2007, partnered with payment giant PayPal to allow donors to contribute to specific projects from Russia and India to Canada and Indonesia using Asian fundraising site Crowdonomic.
Earth Hour chief executive Andy Ridley said the event had moved beyond symbolism to concrete action.