Doha: The World Cup is starting in Qatar on Sunday.
The opening ceremony at the tent-shaped stadium will be held at 1440 GMT before the first match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador.
Few details were available on whether heads of state would attend, but state media said the UN secretary-general and Algeria’s president arrived on Saturday.
In a statement early Sunday, FIFA said that South Korean singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS will perform a new official tournament song called Dreamers on stage with Qatari singer Fahd Al-Qubaisi.
Qatar and FIFA expect on-pitch action to headline after growing criticism of the hosts over their treatment of foreign workers, LGBT rights, and social restrictions, including banning alcohol in stadiums and public displays of affection. The organizers have also denied allegations of bribery for the right to host.
The smallest country to host football’s biggest global event, Qatar, a wealthy gas producer, aims to cement its credentials as a global player and show regional rivals a force to be reckoned with.
As some spectators took their first sips of beer at the launch of the FIFA Fan Festival in central Doha on Saturday, hundreds of workers, all men, gathered at a playground in an industrial area on the city’s edge, where no alcohol is served. I was staying. They will be able to watch the match there.
“Of course, I didn’t buy tickets. They are expensive, and I should be using that money for other things – like sending it to my family back home,” said Ghanian national Kassim, a security guard who worked in Qatar for four years. Told Reuters.
Neville, a 24-year-old Kenyan studying nutrition, and compatriot Willie, also 24 and a Manchester City fan, were hired as security guards during the event. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it is worth it,” said Neville.
Many expatriate workers who have worked hard to prepare Qatar’s tournament infrastructure will watch the cost outside the stadium. Qatar has come under sharp criticism for its treatment of migrant workers but points to labor reforms to protect them from exploitation and says the system is progress.
Crowd control will be crucial, with around 1.2 million visitors expected to arrive, and more than a third of Qatar’s population are foreign workers.
Workers were putting the finishing touches to outdoor gardens and sidewalks on Saturday and moving construction materials to a site near the national museum, where dozens of people gathered, including fans in Argentina jerseys.
Qatar has seen a construction frenzy fueled by the gas wealth that has changed the face of Doha in the run-up to the tournament, the most expensive World Cup in history ever held at the cost of $220 billion.
In the renovated Mashreb area, home to high-end shops, some not yet open, and hipster coffee shops, groups of men in Thebes, dressed in Qatari national dress, sing, and chant.
As there are a limited number of hotels within Qatar, fans will also fly in on daily shuttle flights from neighboring cities such as Dubai.
“It was like a workplace when we came in,” said England fan Neil Gahan in an area of Doha housing fan portacabins.
He said the cabins were “not luxurious, ” but there were sports facilities and massive screens nearby. “Yeah, I think it’s going to be fine.”
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