Jung Kook from BTS performs on a stage at the Qatar World Cup opening ceremony.

Qatar World Cup opening ceremony features Morgan Freeman and Jung Kook, but BBC chooses not to air it

Qatar’s ruler has opened the FIFA World Cup with a call for people of all races and orientations to put aside their differences, speaking as the host nation faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, women and LGBTQI people.

The Muslim Gulf nation is staking its reputation on delivering a smooth tournament and has denied accusations of abuse of workers and discrimination.

But UK broadcaster BBC chose to air criticism of the host nation’s human rights record rather than the opening ceremony.

“It’s the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn’t even been kicked,” Match of the Day host Gary Lineker said on BBC One.

It started a broadcast of widespread criticism, including of the voting and bidding process that secured the hosting rights, and the carbon footprint of the tournament.

Meanwhile, back in Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani spoke to the crowd in a tent-shaped stadium.

BBC’s broadcast criticised Qatar’s human rights record and the environmental impact of this tournament in particular.(Getty Images: Hollie Adams)

“People of all races, nationalities, beliefs and orientations will gather here in Qatar and around screens across the continents to share in the exciting moments,” the emir said in the ceremony, during which he kissed the hand of his father, who abdicated in 2013.

“How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together at the same time.”

The emir arrived at Al Bayt stadium flanked by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and sat alongside other Arab leaders. No Western leaders attended.

A show featuring camels, American actor Morgan Freeman, Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS and Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi unfolded on the pitch. Fireworks lit the sky.

Morgan Freeman stands with his arms akimbo at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony.
Actor Morgan Freeman appeared and delivered a monologue at the ceremony.(Getty Images: Simon Stacpoole/Offside)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the presidents of Egypt, Turkey and Algeria, as well as the United Nations secretary-general, were among the leaders at the stadium, where Ecuador later scored a 2-0 victory over Qatar, the first World Cup hosts to lose their opening game.

‘It’s too cold’

Flame throwers go off around a replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy.
The first match was played at night so it did not have any of the heat concerns that will likely emerge going forward.(Getty Images: Evrim Aydin/Anadolu Agency)

Despite fears of desert heat melting fans and players alike, the first game, played in cooler night-time conditions, was a little chilly for those in the crowd.

Icy air blasted the more than 67,000 fans packing the Al Bayt Stadium in the coastal Qatari city of Al Khor, with the air-conditioned outdoor stadium leaving some fans wishing they had dressed warmer.

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