Sheikh Tamim speaks during the opening celemony in Doha on Sunday night. Reuters
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, speaking at the opening ceremony of soccer’s World Cup, said the event gathered people of all nationalities and beliefs.
“From Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022,” he said in a speech in a tent-shaped stadium. “How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together all at once.”
Sheikh Tamim took centre stage after an elaborate display of dancing in a scene involving swirling desert sands, scimitar swords and 21st century pop stars, all taking place in a stadium styled on a Bedouin tent.
“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,” he told the capacity 60,000 crowd.
With FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman watching on, he added: “We will follow with the whole world, God willing, the great football festival in this open space for human and civilised communication.”
The ceremony in the Al-Bayt stadium, one of seven built specially for the World Cup at a cost of $6.5 billion, featured Hollywood superstar Morgan Freeman giving a message of diversity.
Ghanim Al Muftah, a Qatari activist for the disabled, born with the rare Caudal Regression Syndrome, appeared with Freeman and stated to the crowd: “Everyone is welcome.”
“We worked with many people to make it one of the most successful tournaments,” said the emir. “We made efforts and invested in the good for all humanity.
“How beautiful it is for people to put aside what separates them in order to celebrate their diversity and what unites them at the same time.”
After fireworks erupted over the stadium, and Infantino welcomed all 32 competing nations to the tournament, Qatar kicked off against Ecuador in the opening match.