Al Khor, Qatar, Nov 20 (EFE).- Qatari tradition and modernity mixed at the 2022 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony on Sunday in Al Bayt Stadium, one of the architectural jewels built at a cost of $850 million to host soccer’s biggest international event and the site of the first match between the host country’s team and Ecuador, a contest the latter won 2-0.
The scene could not have been more appropriate. The stadium takes its name from the “bayt al sha’ar,” or traditional tents used by the nomads of Qatar and the Persian Gulf region, and the structure of the stadium – with its retractable roof – clearly resembles those tents.
Amid the presidency of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is popular among the Qatari people, the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East kicked off with a relatively short ceremony, just half an hour, during which the hosts put the roots of their country and its links with the desert on display while touting its unity and modernity.
“I say to the whole world: Welcome to Doha. We have worked hard with many people so that this competition may be a success. We have invested to work for the good of humanity. The peoples are joining together, regardless of their ethnicity, their religion, their orientation and their nationality, here in Qatar and through the (television) screens of all the continents of the world,” the emir said in his brief opening speech.
Attending the ceremony featuring a spectacular fireworks display – apart from the top officials of international soccer’s FIFA organization, Swiss citizen Gianni Infantino – were the leaders of Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan), Egypt (Abdel Fattah al-Sisi), the Palestinian National Authority (Mahmoud Abbas), Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.
US actor Morgan Freeman, who had an important role at the ceremony, said that soccer is loved around the world and what unites nations also unites communities.
Jung Kook, a member of the South Korean pop group BTS, performed “Dreamers,” a song included in the official soundtrack of this year’s World Cup, along with Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi, whose performance, organizers said, issued a call to “all humanity” to overcome differences via humanism, respect and inclusion.
Brief tributes were paid at the ceremony to the 32 national teams competing in this year’s event with short portions of songs typical of each nation and the appearance of mascots, including Gauchito and Naranjito, as well as the key songs of previous World Cups, including Shakira’s “Waka Waka.”
Earlier, former player Marcel Desailly, the French world champion, introduced the trophy the defending champion Blues won four years ago at the Moscow World Cup and later in the day, for more than three hours, Ecuadorian fans cheered as their national team defeated Qatar at Al Khor Stadium.