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World Cup 2018 Opening Ceremony: Performers, Start Time and TV Coverage Info

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJune 13, 2018

American Hollywood actor and producer Will Smith (C) attends the premier of his cop thriller movie 'Bright' in Mumbai on December 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STR        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/Getty Images

The festivities laid on in the lead-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup have all been building to Thursday's big kick-off, with the opening ceremony to be held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

FIFA recently confirmed former Take That star and "Angels" singer Robbie Williams will perform, as will actor Will Smith and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina. The World Cup trophy will be presented by Brazil icon and two-time world champion Ronaldo.

Russia will open the tournament against Group A opponents Saudi Arabia, but before the competition starts, the hosts will have a chance to show why they deserved the chance to stage the tournament.

Their selection as World Cup hosts was met with derision from some amid claims of corruption used to acquire hosting rights and the decision to stage the competition in the eastern European country.

However, this is the nation's opportunity to illustrate why they can be a success in the role of hosts, with opening ceremonies usually featuring a celebration of the home country's culture.

Read on for a breakdown of what we know about the 2018 World Cup opening ceremony, including confirmed performers, start time and how you can watch the entertainment.

          

Date: Thursday, June 14

Start Time: 2 p.m. BST/9 a.m. ET

TV Info: ITV (UK), Fox (U.S.)

          

Preview

Williams previously recorded a cover of "Three Lions" as England's theme song for the 2010 World Cup, but he'll have a different hand in 2018.

Per the official website, Williams spoke of his excitement after being announced as a late addition to the opening ceremony: 

“I'm so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. I've done a lot in my career, and opening the FIFA World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream. We'd like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show."

Germany midfielder Toni Kroos may not have had plans to attend Russia's curtain-raiser against Saudi Arabia or the opening ceremony, but the arrival of his favourite singer, Williams, may change that.

The BBC's Richard Conway wondered how far Williams would be willing to take his presenter duties:

Richard Conway @richard_conway

Fifa announce Robbie Williams will perform at the World Cup opening ceremony on Thursday. But will he take a ‘94 style Diana Ross penalty?

There's also no fitter person to present the World Cup trophy itself than Ronaldo, who took a World Cup Golden Boot (2002), a Golden Ball (1998) and a World Cup Silver Ball (2002) to go along with his two tournament wins.

Another big draw of the opening ceremony is the chance to see Smith once again singing live, having had a hand in creating the 2018 World Cup theme song, "Live It Up."

Make what you will of the South American-inspired dance song, which also features American singer Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi:

The track is also helped by the fact Diplo served as producer, meaning the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium crowd should be in for a treat on opening night.

Sports journalist Rachel Bonnetta suggested an alternative way in which Smith might appease some of his fans:

Rachel Bonnetta @rachelbonnetta

I hope Will Smith does “Welcome To Miami” and just replaces Miami w Moscow. That would be cool I guess.

Other viewers may be pleased to hear there's a classical twist on proceedings, too, with opera singer Placido Domingo, one of the Three Tenors, performing at the ceremony.

He will sing alongside Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, and opening ceremony organisers released a statement explaining their decision to opt for a classical singer, per Russian news agency Tass:

"It is interesting that football events are usually opened by opera stars, because classical music is a universal code understood by residents of every country. Montserrat Caballe and Freddie Mercury, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, who performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona, have set a great example to be followed. Luciano Pavarotti continued this tradition during the Winter Olympic Games in Turin."

According to World Soccer, the World Cup hosts are also expected to lay on a visual feast of gymnasts and trampolinists, two other sports in which Russia has excelled over the years.

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