The 2014 World Cup is finally upon us, and before millions of fans all over the globe will get to see their favourite teams in action, event organisers will set the tone with the traditional opening ceremony.
For plenty of fans, this is the highlight of the entire tournament. Hundreds of professional dancers and volunteers have put countless hours of work into a show that has been planned for four years, and expectations are enormous.
The opening ceremony will be followed by the tournament's opening fixture, featuring hosts Brazil and Croatia, so you can be sure there will be plenty of energy in the performance as the artists attempt to inspire their compatriots to a win.
Venue: Arena de Sao Paulo
Date: Thursday, June 12
Time: 7:15 p.m. BST/2:15 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1/ESPN
It was previously reported star singer Jennifer Lopez wouldn't be attending the opening ceremony, but via Eurosport UK, it now appears J-Lo had a change of heart. Her representatives released a statement on Tuesday, in which they clarified the singer had been planning on participating all along:
Jennifer has always wanted to participate in the World Cup opening ceremonies. We have been trying to work out scheduling and logistics.
Any statements to the contrary were premature. Jennifer would not want to disappoint her fans or fans of futbol. She will be there.
The story of the massive performance fans will get to witness isn't about the stars who are set to participate—it's about the massive scale of the show itself, a tribute to the country of Brazil and the people who make it great.
Via FIFA's official website, Belgian artistic director Daphne Cornez told reporters how excited the people she was working with were about this opportunity:
The Opening Ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people football.
The sense of excitement here is amazing and everyone is very motivated. It doesn’t matter whether they’re feeling tired or hot sometimes or if they have to go through routines again and again: they just keep on smiling. It’s amazing.
Edna Sasson, one of the many volunteers involved with the show, tried to put into words what an incredible opportunity this is for all of the people who will take to the stage:
I went, did the test and got selected. I was very happy and excited. I could hardly contain myself.
It’s a unique event. It’s not like dancing at the local theatre or any other theatre for that matter. You’re dancing at the start of the World Cup, with millions and millions of people watching. I’m loving it.
The dancing isn't the only thing that will catch the attention of people watching. As the opening ceremony will be performed in daylight, event organisers have decided not to rely on fireworks to add a dash of colour to the proceedings.
Instead, a central ball made out of more than 90,000 light clusters will draw people in, and organisers will have even more surprises.
Perhaps the biggest innovation is the first kick, which will be given by a paraplegic person wearing a mind-controlled exoskeleton, something scientists have been working on for months.
Mo Costandi shared a photo of the suit in action, a truly impressive scientific feat that will give millions of fans watching a moment they will never forget.
Rapper Pitbull will be one of the many stars performing the World Cup's official song, "We Are One (Ola Ola)," alongside Lopez. The Guardian's Barney Ronay approved of the message FIFA is trying to send the world, with both music and football working as forces that can unite people:
FIFA blurb on the opening ceremony: "It's going to show the world that music is the universal language”, said Pitbull. I agree with Pitbull— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) June 8, 2014
The ceremony is expected to last some 25 minutes, after which event organisers will have to clear the pitch as quickly as possible ahead of the World Cup's opening fixture. Keeping the surface undamaged and avoiding a Super Bowl-like scenario are but two of the many obstacles the opening ceremony will face.
Fans can expect plenty of props and characters on the pitch, a celebration of Brazil's incredible nature and wildlife, its people and the sport that has brought 32 teams together to decide which of them is the strongest.