The wait is finally over! After months of anticipation, Russia 2018 kicked off with the hosts facing Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. The World Cup will be played out in 12 stadiums, across 11 cities, spread over 1,800 miles, in addition to being watched by millions across the world.
Minutes before the game started, Putin said: "I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world." The build-up has been dogged by controversy and diplomatic scandals and has shone a light on the challenges facing Putin's Russia.
As always, the opening ceremony was a spectacle to behold. It all began with Spanish legend, Iker Casillas, alongside Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova presenting the 2018 FIFA World Cup trophy in all its glory. The famed trophy was carried in its newly designed travel case by Louis Vuitton. After that, the audience was treated to a video performance by legendary Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The video was seen from a floating platform on the Moscow River. This was followed by performances from Grammy award-winning acts, Yuri Bashmet and Daniil Trifonov.
After the opening musical performances, we saw an adorable interaction between a little kid and the legendary Brazilian striker, Ronaldo Nazario. They were accompanied by the star of the show, British pop star, Robbie Williams. The former Take That member kicked off his performance with his hit song Let Me Entertain You. At this point, a massive firebird entered the pitch, spread its wings and revealed Russian soprano Aida Garifullina on its back. The crowd erupted as the two began their performance.
The two sang a rendition of the classic Angels. They were accompanied by 32 pairs of dancers dressed in the national flags of the 32 participating teams. 211 kids of Gazprom’s programme “Football for Friendship” were waving flags in the tribunes. On top of this, spectators were also given golden stars to hold. It was truly a magical moment.
At this point the official 2018 FIFA World Cup match ball, the Adidas Telstar 18, was brought onto the pitch by Rostov-on-Don Ambassador, Victoria Lopyreva. This was the exact same ball that was sent to outer space with an International Space Station crew in March. It was used by cosmonauts to play football in zero gravity conditions. Brazilian legend Ronaldo was invited to take the first kick.
Robbie Williams closed the show with an electric performance of Rock DJ as the dismantling started. This was followed by the pre-match ceremony.
A good opening ceremony is crucial, as it sets the tempo for the whole World Cup and this one delivered on all fronts. Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull were the headlining acts in 2014, whereas Shakira hypnotised millions with her dazzling performance of ‘Waka Waka’ at the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.