Arabian Nights-themed opening ceremony enthrals spectators

Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman’s booming voice lends the gravitas, while BTS member Jung Kook croons the official song Dreamer

November 20, 2022 03:17 pm | Updated 11:15 pm IST - Doha, Qatar

Performers during the the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar on November 20, 2022.

Performers during the the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar on November 20, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

“It will be the best World Cup,” FIFA president Giovanni Infantino said in a rambling press conference on the eve of the World Cup.

And the opening spectacle of lights, fireworks and mysticism transported the 50000-plus spectators at the Bedouin tent-shaped Al Bayt stadium into the surreal world of Arabian Nights.

Actor Morgan Freeman sits on the stage at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 20, 2022.

Actor Morgan Freeman sits on the stage at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 20, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

Jung Kook of BTS performs with Fahad Al Kubaisi during the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.

Jung Kook of BTS performs with Fahad Al Kubaisi during the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The gravitas lent by the booming voice of Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman juxtaposed snuggly with the official song Dreamer crooned by Jung Kook, the dream boy of every teenage girl and the youngest member of South Korean boyband BTS.

But earlier in the day, with the opening ceremony of perhaps the most opposed World Cup of recent times hours away, the streets of Doha – deserted and non-festive – seem to have missed the memo of the FIFA boss. There was no verve or music of Sao Paolo or the friendly smiles and tipsy tribes of Moscow, giving Doha the feel of a soulless play the stage for which was yet to be erected.

The fans, the heart of any sports event, bear the brunt of the ever-changing goalposts of rules and regulations, and the residents – Indians, Pakistanis and contract workers from Africa easily outnumbering the locals – seemed equally nonplussed about hosting 831 of the best players in the world.

Camels are seen during the FIFA World Cup Qatar opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.

Camels are seen during the FIFA World Cup Qatar opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

A combative FIFA head had done his best to shield the host from all the criticism.

“Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker, “ he said in an attempt to divert the negative attention from a World Cup festival that, till then, had offered very little reasons for celebrations.

But Freeman, Jung Kook, mascots of the past editions and the freewheeling La’eeb - a mix of Casper the friendly ghost and the Pillsbury man - gave Qatar and this World Cup something to dream about. And the fans, too, missing in the streets of Doha, made a miraculous presence in the stands, finally bringing in the festivities that every host yearns for.

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