Robbie Williams headlines FIFA World Cup 2018 opening ceremony | football | Hindustan Times
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Robbie Williams headlines FIFA World Cup 2018 opening ceremony

The opening ceremony raised curtains to the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia

football Updated: Jun 14, 2018 22:46 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
Robbie Williams, left, and Aida Garifullina, center, perform ahead of the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opens the FIFA World Cup 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.
Robbie Williams, left, and Aida Garifullina, center, perform ahead of the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opens the FIFA World Cup 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.(AP)

With a shorter duration and held closer to kickoff, as compared to previous editions, an opening ceremony here at the Luzhniki Stadium raised curtains to the FIFA World Cup 2018 on Thursday.

The ceremony was preceded by the trophy presentation with Spain’s 2010 World Cup-winning skipper Iker Casillas and Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova bringing the Jules Rimet trophy to the pitch.

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With extremely tight security in place, fans were gradually allowed into the stadium around 90 minutes before kickoff.

English singer Robbie Williams headlined the ceremony with his 1997 hit ‘Let me entertain you’. He followed it up with a rendition of ‘Feel’, a song from his 2002 album Escapology.

For his next song ‘Angels’, another 1997 hit, he was accompanied by Russian musician Aida Garifullina. Williams finished his performance with his 2000 song ‘Rock DJ’.

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Having faced criticism over lengthy opening ceremonies in the past, FIFA kept proceedings short on Thursday. The ceremony lasted less than 20 minutes with almost 800 artists involved in the show.

Brazilian great Ronaldo was received with loud cheers as he made his way into the pitch as part of the ceremony.

With less than ten minutes left for kickoff, Russian president Vladimir Putin addressed the crowd. FIFA chief Gianni Infantino gave a speech shortly after.

By the time of Putin’s speech, all stands at the Luzhniki Stadium had filled up.

A sizeable section of the ground, accounting for a few thousand seats, was occupied by supporters of Saudi Arabia.

Chants of ‘Russia, Russia!’ reverberated through the ground as both teams prepared to begin proceedings on the pitch.