Let the games begin
Russian soprano Aida Garifullina sings at the opening ceremony of the 2018 soccer World Cup ahead of the start of the Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opened the 2018 World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow yesterday
It was, perhaps, inevitable that Robbie Williams would begin the 2018 World Cup opening ceremony by singing Let Me Entertain You, rather than Party Like a Russian, the 2016 single that reportedly caused a certain amount of disquiet in the titular nation. It was certainly a robust opening for British viewers, but one wondered if it had quite the impact for the rest of the world: Williams’s stardom has been largely confined to Europe and isn’t of the wattage it once was.
Still, nothing hung around long enough to get dull – Let Me Entertain You faded into the soprano Aida Garifullina warbling on the back of a “firebird” for a few seconds before Williams returned for a snippet of Feel, before Garifullina joined him for, inevitably, Angels. “
And through it all she offers me protection,” Williams sang, echoing the prayers of flair players towards referees.
The whole thing – compact, based around partial songs rather than a dragged-out epic – felt based not on the self-conscious pomposity of Olympics opening ceremonies, but the tightly scheduled wham-bam of Super Bowl half-time shows. Albeit this was a Super Bowl half-time show done on a fraction of the budget. There were no bonkers mass dance displays, but there were women in some Fifa-approved bastardised national costumes. (Williams, it emerged later, flipped the bird during his version of Rock DJ, although this was missed by ITV in the UK who were already focusing on the football.)
And a man in a wolf suit giving high fives to Ronaldo – the original one – and a child identified in Fifa’s official schedule only as “kid”. Presumably all those Fifa riches were heading straight for grassroots football projects even as Ronaldo and “kid” grinned awkwardly at each other.
It was short, it was mostly painless. And it was completely pointless.