World Cup 2022: Qatar opens FIFA World Cup with a message of inclusion

AL KHOR, Qatar — Oscar winner Morgan Freeman held out his yellow-gloved hand to a FIFA World Cup Ambassador, who suffers from a rare spinal condition, in an image meant to represent inclusion in a country that has come under international criticism for its human rights record.

It wasn’t the biggest moment of Sunday’s World Cup opening ceremony in seven acts ahead of the game between host country Qatar and Ecuador. The biggest cheers were reserved for the leaders of the Middle East and Africa, who watched from their luxury suites in the Bedouin tent-inspired Al Bayt Stadium.

In fact, it was Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani who received thunderous applause in a short speech delivered in Arabic from the suite.

“We worked hard together with many people to make it one of the most successful tournaments,” he said. “We have made every effort and invested for the benefit of all mankind.”

He sat between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who secured the World Cup for the tiny golfing nation 12 years ago.

“How beautiful it is for people to put aside what separates them to celebrate their diversity while also celebrating what brings them together,” said Sheikh Tamim, his words translated into English on a video screen at the stadium .

“I wish all participating teams a great football performance, high sportsmanship and a time of joy, excitement and joy for all of you,” he continued. “And let there be days that inspire with kindness and hope.”

He then said in his words, spoken only in English: “Welcome to you and I wish everyone the best of luck.

Sheikh Hamad, seen as Qatar’s modernizer during his 18-year tenure, further wowed the crowd by autographing an official World Cup shirt presented to him by his son. Then he held the shirt out to the crowd.

Qatar, home to 3 million people, most of them migrant workers, has spent more than $200 billion preparing for the World Cup. Seven new stadiums were built, including the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium north of Doha.

The Opening Ceremony aimed to introduce Qatar to the world through its culture with the theme of ‘Bridging Distances’. Creative director Ahmad Al Baker wanted the ceremony to mean “a gathering for all of humanity, an invitation to come together as one and to bridge all differences with humanity, respect and inclusion.”

“We have finally reached Opening Day, the day you have been eagerly awaiting,” said Sheikh Tamim. “We will, and with us the whole world, God willing, follow the great football festival in this generous ambience for human and civilized communication.

“People of different races, nationalities, creeds and orientations will gather here in Qatar and around screens on every continent to share the same exciting moments.”

His words hit the mark as Sheikh Tamim was joined in the stadium suite by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, two leaders who had boycotted Qatar for years. Not present were the leaders of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the other two nations involved in the boycott.

No major Western leaders were in attendance as Qatar is under scrutiny for its treatment of the migrant workers who prepared the nation for the World Cup, as well as the LGBTQ community. Gay and lesbian sex is criminalized in Qatar.

But among the participants in the opening game were UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

The Crown Prince of Kuwait was accompanied by the Director-General of the World Health Organization and the President of Djibouti. Also present was Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

They listened as BTS’ Jung Kook while Qatari singer and producer Fahad Al Kubaisi debuted the single “Dreamers,” which was specially produced for the World Cup.

Then came remarks from Infantino, who spoke in Arabic, Spanish and finally English to officially open the tournament.

“Dear friends, welcome, welcome to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” Infantino said in English. “Welcome to celebrate football because football unites the world. And now let’s welcome the teams and let the show begin.”

As Tiesto’s “The Business” blared through the speakers, Qatar and Ecuador took the field and the World Cup officially began.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://6abc.com/world-cup-qatar-opening-cermony-fifa/12475495/ World Cup 2022: Qatar opens FIFA World Cup with a message of inclusion

Alley Einstein

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