AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman extended one yellow-gloved hand to a FIFA World Cup ambassador suffering from a rare spinal disorder in an image meant to represent inclusion.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani drew a thunderous applause in a short speech delivered in Arabic. “We have worked hard, along with many people, to make it one of the most successful tournaments,” he said. “We have exerted all efforts and invested for the good of all humanity.”
He was seated between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who secured the World Cup for the tiny gulf nation 12 years ago.
“How beautiful it is for people to put aside what divides them in order to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together at the same time,” Sheikh Tamim said, his words translated into English on a video screen inside the stadium.
“I wish all the participating teams a magnificent football performance, high sportsmanship, and a time full of joy, excitement and delight for you all,” he continued. “And let there be days that are inspiring with goodness and hope.”
The opening ceremony was meant to introduce Qatar to the world through its culture with a theme of “bridging distances.” Creative director Ahmad Al Baker wanted the ceremony to signify “a gathering for all mankind, an invitation to come together as one, bridging all differences with humanity, respect and inclusion.”
Some of the big star line-ups in the performances include BTS’ Jung Kook, while Qatari singer and producer Fahad Al Kubaisi debuted the single “Dreamers,” produced specifically 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 “The Business” by Tiesto blasted over the speakers, Qatar and Ecuador took to the field and the World Cup officially began.