Narrated by American actor Morgan Freeman, the opening ceremony marked the beginning of the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar, an event that had been in doubt from the beginning, from the scandals splashing FIFA's awarding its organization to the non-democratic country to all-out global war from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The 30-minute opening ceremony was held at the spectacular Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, the furthest away from Doha, just over an hour's drive from the center of the Qatari capital.
The ceremony highlighted the peculiarities of Qatari life and then staged a tribute to all previous World Cups.
South Korean performer Jungkook of BTS fame then appeared on stage to sing Dreamers, one of the official anthems of this first World Cup in an Arab country, together with local singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.
The event was presided over by Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, who gave a brief speech. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach were also present.
What unites us is greater than what divides us. We are one big tribe and the Earth is our tent. Together we can make the call for all of us to unite, Freeman said in his speech. This is a call to the whole world. Soccer unites people and nations. There is a common thread of hope and respect. Soccer expands the world, it unites nations in their love for this precious game. What brings nations together, brings communities together. We all have a soccer history, and so does Qatar, he added.
On a strictly sporting note, hosts Qatar were beaten 2-0 by Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament, despite press reports that some members of the South American squad had been bribed to let the hosts win. Striker Enner Valencia scored both goals for the team coached by Argentine trainer Gustavo Alfaro.
The Turkish Fenerbahce forward also scored three times during the 2014 tournament in Brazil, making him Ecuador's top scorer in World Cups with five goals.
Ecuador nearly missed the Qatar event after it was proven that Colombia-born Byron Castillo had been featured in the qualifying-round competition before fully completing his nationalization process. The team has been penalized with a three-point deduction for the 2026 playoffs.
The South Americans' Argentina-born keeper Hernán Galíndez held on to a clean sheet and his team has now gone seven straight matches without conceding a goal. Ecuador will next face the Netherlands on Friday.