Hollywood icon Morgan Freeman featured alongside Qatari YouTuber Ghanim Al-Muftah in the glitzy opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup being hosted in Qatar.
Also as part of the opening ceremony, South Korean pop star Jung Kook sang Dreamers, the tournament song, alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi at the stadium in Al Khor.
With just under 90 minutes remaining until the opening match of the tournament, the ceremony kicked off with Oscar-winning actor Freeman narrating a video about football’s ability to unite.
The build-up to the first World Cup to be held in a Muslim country in the Middle East has been overshadowed by a number of controversies, including deaths of migrant workers and treatment of LGBT people in Qatar.
During the first dance routine, Freeman was greeted by cheers as he appeared in the stadium alongside Al Muftah, who was born with the rare Caudal Regression Syndrome.
“Everyone is welcome,” Freeman told the crowd.
One of the dance routines featured giant walking kits of the 32 teams competing in the tournament and the mascots of previous World Cups alongside La’eeb, the 2022 mascot.
Jung Kook and Fahad Al Kubaisi performed together before Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani delivered the opening speech in Arabic.
“People of different races, nationalities, creeds and orientations will gather here in Qatar and around screens on all continents to share the same exciting moments,” the emir told the crowd.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the presidents of Egypt, Turkey and Algeria, as well as the United Nations secretary general, were among world leaders in the tent-shaped stadium ahead of the opening match.
The 30-minute ceremony ended with a fireworks display and another dance routine before the Qatar and Ecuador teams took to the pitch to start their warm-ups.