Sports Desk: The World Cup kicked off in Russia yesterday as years of preparations dogged by diplomatic scandals give way to a month of action on the field in football’s global showpiece.
The opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup started at 8:30 pm Bangladesh Standard Time.
The opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia began at 9:00 pm Bangladesh Standard Time.
Russia get the ball rolling against Saudi Arabia at the completely refurbished 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow after an opening ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. UK pop star Robbie Williams performed at the opening ceremony, which is being curated by Russia’s Channel One, as well as renowned soprano Aida Garifullina.
Around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists also performed in an opening extravaganza that will pay homage to all things Russian. The official song of the Russia World Cup was also performed at the opening ceremony.
Ronaldo, hero for Brazil at the 2002 World Cup, also featured in World Cup 2018 opening ceremony representing “the football glory that all players will be hoping to achieve on Russian soil” according to FIFA. Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is in the meantime in Kremlin to attend the opening.
Brazil have won the title a record five times while defending champions Germany are on four and determined to draw level with the Brazilians when the final is played at Luzhniki on July 15.
There was little romance in the prelude as Russia’s problems-from racism and hooliganism to a foreign policy sharply at odds with the West-were exposed and scrutinised.
Britain and some eastern European states still haunted by Moscow’s rule in the Soviet era tried to organise a diplomatic boycott over the poisoning in England of a former Russian spy.
Neither the British royal family nor British government members will attend, but a wider boycott effort fizzled out.
Russian organisers say they expect more than 20 heads of state to attend the opening match.
“We would like to underscore the validity of the FIFA principle of sport being outside politics,” Russian leader Putin told a meeting Wednesday of football’s governing body FIFA.
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