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BBC's coverage of FIFA World Cup opening ceremony sidelined to online platforms

BBCs coverage of FIFA World Cup opening ceremony sidelined to online platforms

Doha: The Qatar World Cup 2022 opening ceremony was not included in the public service broadcaster of the United Kingdom's primary coverage programme.

Coverage of the opening ceremony on Sunday was relegated to the BBC's secondary streams, including its "red button" service, its online iPlayer app, and its sports website.

The inclusion-themed extravaganza from the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, however, was not available to viewers tuning in to its flagship programming on BBC One, and they missed highlights like a performance by BTS star Jungkook and Qatari singer Fahad al-Kubaisi.

In an effort to symbolise inclusion in a nation that has come under fire for its human rights record, ceremony narrator Morgan Freeman made an appearance in the stadium to shake hands with a FIFA World Cup ambassador who has a rare spinal disease, Al Jazeera reported

The Women's Super League match between Chelsea and Tottenham, which ended after the opening ceremony had started, was being broadcast on BBC One. Around the same time, the BBC's social media team released a four-minute Instagram video remembering the 1982 Gay Games, which were created by former Olympians to draw attention to homophobia in sports.

The hosts of the programme, Gary Lineker, Alex Scott, and Alex Shearer, talked about the accusations made against the host nation when the channel changed to its programme being broadcast from Qatar.

"It's the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn't even been kicked," said Lineker, a former England football captain, in his opening monologue.

"Ever since FIFA chose Qatar back in 2010, the smallest nation to have hosted football's greatest competition has faced some big questions. From accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums where many lost their lives."

"Homosexuality is illegal here, women's rights and freedom of expression are in the spotlight. Also, the decision six years ago to switch the World Cup from summer to winter.

"Against that backdrop, there's a tournament to be played, one that will be watched and enjoyed around the world. Stick to football, say FIFA, well, we will, for a couple of minutes at least."

Qatar has changed its labour laws in the twelve years since it was chosen to host the first World Cup in the Middle East. This includes getting rid of the much-criticized kafala system and the exit permit system, both of which had been abused by unscrupulous employers. As part of labour reforms, Qatar has also implemented a minimum wage and new rules about working in hot conditions.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) stated in a study this month that Qatar has improved the living and working circumstances for hundreds of thousands of workers and that issues with implementation still existed.

All fans, regardless of sexual orientation, are welcome in Qatar, according to the World Cup organisers.

Not just between LGBTQ couples, but also in Qatar's conservative society, public displays of affection are frowned upon.

A BBC spokesperson told Al Jazeera that: "Full build-up and coverage of the World Cup has been available across the BBC, including the opening ceremony on iPlayer."

In response to criticism, BBC broadcaster Gary Lineker tweeted that it was just a matter of scheduling and logistics: "It was shown live in its entirety on @BBCiPlayer, BBC Sport website and red button. The timing of the opening ceremony was changed to an earlier time very recently and WSL was already confirmed on @bbcone. If you wanted to watch it, you could."

FIFA had announced in August, more than three months back that they will move the World Cup's opening ceremony and game up by one day from their original schedule.

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