LONDON: Robbie Williams got the ball rolling in the opening ceremony of Russia 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The 15-minute show produced by Russia’s state Channel One broke from World Cup tradition, focusing on musical acts including a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky in front of full stands at the capital’s main Luzhniki stadium.
Iker Casillas and Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova brought the World Cup trophy onto the pitch in a Louis Vuitton travel case.
Robbie Williams performed hits “Let Me Entertain You” and “Rock DJ” accompanied by dancers and freestylers.
He was joined in a duet by Aida Garifullina, a soloist from the Vienna State Opera, who entered the pitch on a firebird, singing Williams’ hit song “Angels.”
The opening ceremony was followed by a match between the host team and Saudi Arabia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was next into the action, officially opening the World Cup in Moscow’s 80,000-seat Luzhniki.
Minutes before host nation Russia kicked off against Saudi Arabia in the first match of the tournament, Putin said: “I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world.”