Qatar begins 2022 World Cup with inclusive message

Qatar begins 2022 World Cup with inclusive message

Morgan Freeman, winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor, extended one yellow-gloved hand to a FIFA World Cup ambassador with a rare spinal disorder as a symbol of inclusion in a country facing international criticism for its human rights record.

It was not the most memorable moment of Sunday’s seven-act World Cup opening ceremony prior to Ecuador’s 2-0 victory over the host nation Qatar. The loudest cheers were reserved for Middle Eastern and African leaders watching from their luxury suites in Al Bayt Stadium, which was inspired by Bedouin tents.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani received thunderous applause for his brief Arabic speech delivered from the suite. He was seated between the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, and his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who secured the World Cup for the tiny Gulf nation twelve years ago.

“How beautiful it is for people to set aside what divides them in order to celebrate their diversity and what unites them at the same time,” Sheikh Tamim said, his words translated onto a video screen inside the stadium.

He continued, “I wish all participating teams a magnificent football performance, high sportsmanship, and a time filled with joy, excitement, and delight.” “And may there be days filled with goodness and optimism.”

He then said, “I welcome you all and wish you the best of luck,” his only words in English.

Sheikh Hamad, regarded as the modernizer of Qatar during his 18-year reign, delighted the crowd further by signing an official World Cup shirt presented to him by his son. Afterward, he displayed the shirt to the crowd.

Qatar, home to 3 million people, the majority of whom are migrant workers, has spent over $200 billion on World Cup preparations. North of Doha, seven new stadiums were constructed, including the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium.

The purpose of the opening ceremony was to introduce Qatar’s culture to the world with the theme “bridging distances.” Ahmad Al Baker, the ceremony’s creative director, desired for it to symbolize “a gathering for all humanity, an invitation to come together as one, bridging all differences with humanity, respect, and inclusion.”

Sheikh Tamim was joined in the stadium suite by two leaders who had boycotted Qatar for years: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the two other states engaging in the boycott, were not represented.

As Qatar is under tremendous scrutiny for its treatment of the migrant workers who prepared the country for the World Cup and the LGBTQ community, no big Western politicians were present. In Qatar, gay and lesbian sexual activity is illegal.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were among those who did attend the opening match.

In attendance were the crown prince of Kuwait, the director-general of the World Health Organization, and the president of Djibouti. Also present was Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

»Qatar begins 2022 World Cup with inclusive message«

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