A veteran of many Olympic opening and closing ceremonies is putting on a 30-minute show that will take place before Sunday’s World Cup’s first game.
ROME, Capital City of Rome — First World Cup in the Middle East. The first World Cup opened in November. The first modern version was based on a single city. First in an Arab country.
Now add the “first World Cup with an Olympic-style opening ceremony” to the list of novelties for the tournament in Qatar starting on Sunday.
Creative director Marco Balich, a veteran of many Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, told The Associated Press he had been working for a year on a 30-minute program that would run before the opening match between Qatar and Qatar. Ecuador.
“The supreme committee wanted to create a real performance, something FIFA is not used to,” Balich said in a phone interview from Doha, referring to Qatar’s local organizing committee.
The lavish ceremony was one of the reasons why in August the opening time of the World Cup was moved a day later – to give the show a more prominent viewing window.
“FIFA and the supreme committee – especially FIFA – recognized how much effort went into creating the ceremony and for the first time created something more than just someone singing before the opening match,” said Balich.
One of the few details that many fans remember from previous World Cup opening ceremonies is that Diana Ross missed a penalty in 1994 during a dance performance in Chicago.
Balich is promising more content in Qatar, showing how concerns about the treatment of migrant workers, human rights and the conservative country’s treatment of gays and lesbians will be addressed. resolved in the ceremony.
“I can’t reveal surprise but there will certainly be attention and response to all the issues being debated right now,” Balich said. “It is not about pleasing the West but the platform on which Asia and the Western world can comfortably meet. … I think you will have answers to all the criticisms and issues that have been raised.”
Balich, of Italy, began his Olympic experience at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games with a flag ceremony for Turin.
Unlike the full ceremonies he created for the 2006, 2014, 2016 and 2020 Olympics in Turin, Sochi, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo respectively, Balich was strictly instructed for the event by the state. Qatar’s ruling monarch, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Balich, who is working with co-artistic director Akhmed Al Baker, said: “The message and content of this program is personally handled by the country’s leader. “They want to talk about multiculturalism, accepting diversity and being the foundation for peace.”
Sheikh Hamad has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for two decades and has attended many of Balich’s ceremonies. So it’s no surprise that the emir wanted Olympic-style production.
The ceremony — and the tournament in general — was also an audition for Doha’s desire to host the Summer Olympics.
Doha has three times expressed interest in hosting the Olympics but has so far failed to make the list of candidates.
Qatari officials were blindsided last year when the IOC awarded the exclusive bidding rights to Brisbane and then awarded the 2032 Olympics hosting rights to the Australian city.
The next available Summer Olympics is 2036.
Doha has been awarded the right to host the 2030 Asian Games.
Although the budget for the ceremony is not equal to the budget of the Olympic opening ceremony – mainly due to the difference in duration, with Olympic ceremonies often lasting hours with parades of athletes and various types etiquette – Balich said Qatar “is not afraid to invest in artistic quality.
“We have a team of 900 people with the best choreographers and lighting technicians in the world,” added Balich. “I think this will be a huge step forward in World Cup history and the next tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada will inherit the challenge of creating this grand program that will enrich the experience and identity of the world. entire tournament. “
NOT A SUPER DOLL BETWEEN PROGRAM
While Balich is still restricted from revealing details about the film’s plot, he has said that “famous actors and artists” will be involved.
“But it’s not a Super Bowl halftime show,” he added. “It was a real ceremony with content about Qatar and underlined the fact that this is a tournament with many firsts: the first time it was held in winter; the first time it was played in an Arab country; and for the first time eight stadiums surround a city.
Among the confirmed performers at the ceremony was K-pop star Jungkook.
The opening ceremony and match are scheduled to take place at the tent-shaped Al Bayt Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000 people.
WHEN IS THE WORLD CUP OPENING?
The ceremony will begin at 5:40 p.m. local time (1440 GMT, 9:40 a.m. EST) and end 30 minutes later. After that, the two teams Qatar and Ecuador will warm up before the match and the opening match will start at 19:00
Balich is also directing the closing ceremony ahead of the World Cup final on December 18 which he says will be “less important in terms of content.
“It will be more of a tournament celebration realizing that the focus of the final is almost always the two teams taking part,” he added.
Finally, Balich is creating a daily water show at Doha’s embankment, the city’s bayside promenade.
Featuring fountains, drones and fire, Balich said the corniche display will be three times larger than the fountain show at Bellagio in Las Vegas.
AP sports writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
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