Let the games be­gin

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Photo: AP

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