For all the controversy surrounding the World Cup, which there were many, Saturday night at Doha was a great night for fans.
A crowd of around 40,000 people gathered at the city’s main fan area to welcome in a tournament unlike any other.
First football World Cup in a Muslim nation, first in the Middle East and first to be played in European winter.
Although the majority of the crowd was Qatari, they were also international in color – Mexicans and Argentinians as well as Brazilians, Palestinians and Tunisians. There was even an occasional English shirt.
Hidden in a back corner are the beer stalls. There is no other public place where fans can buy alcohol.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, addressed the crowd at a countdown to the official opening. His news conference was earlier in the day, which included a long and poorly-judged rant about the media.
Roberto Carlos, Marcel Desailly and Marco Materazzi were joined by other FIFA legends on the stage.
The Corniche was lit up by fireworks and a drone display. The DJ played a mix of western and local dance music, and the crowd danced to it. As we went live, I couldn’t hear anything in London.
It still feels quiet out on the streets. The expected 1.2 million Qatari fans will be arriving in Qatar over the next month. However, the majority of them are still to arrive.
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This was an event ordinary Qatari citizens have been waiting for for many years. It was a spectacle that they enjoyed.
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FIFA and Qatar will hope that the criticism will stop or be temporarily forgotten when football begins later today. They might get what they want.
At 4pm UK time, the hosts will play Ecuador. A win for Qatar is a sure sign that this place will explode. They don’t like the international criticism and want to prove it wrong.
It’s an extraordinary World Cup in so many ways.
Although the excitement is building, it’s still not normal.