Ronaldo, Aida Garifullina, “kid,” Zabivaka (Russia 2018 mascot, for the uninitiated), Telstar 18, lots of background dancers and colours and finally, Robbie Williams. Thus stood the star cast of a rather hasty opening ceremony for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The supporting cast included pianist Daniil Trifonov and violinist Yuri Bashmet, who were both floating over Moscow river while performing a Tchaikovsky composition in a rather bizarre pre-recorded opening video.
That video, which marked the beginning of the opening ceremony, also had the aforementioned “kid” – whose name was never revealed – running through the CGI streets of Moscow. Cut to the stadium, where “kid” appeared with a football in one hand and Brazilian great Ronaldo beside him. Robbie Williams then stormed on to the scene and belted his 1997 single Let Me Entertain You. Those first few minutes set the tone for the opening ceremony – short, snappy, episodic and bathed with colour. But in all that frenzy, this particular event seemed to have missed out on doing a few things that is normally expected off a World Cup opening ceremony.
Firstly, there was very little we got to see of Russia. Opening ceremonies of any big sporting event tend to be centred around the culture that the host nation would like to showcase. In this case, Russia showcased a blur of colour and footballs.
— DailyNaija (@TheDailyNaija) 14 June 2018
A man juggling footballs while standing on top of a giant football, a lot of background dancers dressed in a lot of different colours and having football-shaped patches on their backs and shoulders, and a pitch onto which was projected an image of, you guessed it, a football.
It was all very stunning and easy on the eye, but it also seemed pointless. Moreover, the organisers decided to centre the entire thing around Robbie Williams, who decided to show off his middle finger to the camera while performing his 2000 single Rock DJ. Predictably, that didn’t take long to pick up steam on social media.
How much of this was organised keeping a global audience in mind is also debatable. Williams’ popularity has been on the wane over the last five years and even at his peak, one can hardly call him an easily recognisable name in countries outside the Western world. Ronaldo was the only representative from the football fraternity (if you ignore Iker Casillas bringing the trophy into the stadium before all this started) and his biggest moments were walking on to the pitch with “kid” and making the symbolic first pass to Zabivaka.
As stated earlier, the first few minutes set the tone for the opening ceremony – short, snappy, episodic and bathed with colour. One more adjective could be added to the list to describe it – pointless.