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The World Cup of Hypocrisy: A Cottage Industry of Entertainers and Opening Ceremonies

From the World Cup to the Olympic Games, nothing is more compelling than the galvanizing and unifying effect of global sport.

Billions root for athletes from their respective countries competing in individual fashion or on teams on the world stage. Even viewers apathetic to sports are drawn in by the pomp and circumstance of opening and closing ceremonies.

The entertainment community, in particular, hones in on these affairs like a moth to an open flame. Celebrities who are paid handsomely to attend often give eloquent speeches on bridging socioeconomic divides and expound on popular causes. World-famous musicians invited to increase attention on the hoopla are paid enormous sums to encourage fans to “come together.”

And often we do. Who can forget when Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali, stricken with Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic cauldron after more than 10,000 torchbearers carried the flame to Atlanta in 1996? Or when Luciano Pavarotti sang the aria “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, in what would prove to be his last public performance?

From Pavarotti to British disco-pop singer Dua Lipa, how the cottage industry of opening ceremonies has fallen.

Host countries today face celebrity greed and extortion. This year in Qatar, entertainers, if not paid to their liking, hypocritically chose to “take a stand” in the name of so-called “tolerance” against the first Arab country to host the World Cup.

For example, in a recent statement, Lipa dismissed “speculation” that she would be taking the stage at the opening ceremonies and “hoped” that Qatar would fulfill its human rights obligations. Lipa added, “I will not be performing, and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiations to perform.”

Trouble is, a correspondence has come to light that suggests the three-time Grammy winner and her Kosovo-Albanian Muslim family were, at the onset of preparations for the tournament, very gung-ho for the young performer to open the festivities at Al Bayt Stadium. They suggest a keenness to support the Qatari Supreme Organizing Committee in providing Dua’s performance, undertaking production activities alongside the governing body, and even deliberating on ‘next-gen’ experiences and live streaming to ensure a contemporary, interactive, and landmark-setting experience.

Her backing out may be attributed then to financial negotiations breaking down, as it appears she then chose to join the select few who had stepped away from the opening ceremonies, ostensibly because of their own beliefs and/or public pressure from their respective fan bases.

This hesitancy is unsurprising, given the onslaught of media coverage that has effectively sought to “cancel” this mostly immigrant nation as host for the games.

Lipa is not the first performer who has walked back, or for myriad reasons has failed to show up even on the day of the event. Colombia-born superstar Shakira, who opened the 2006 World Cup in Germany, then wrote special songs for the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, canceled her 2022 opening ceremony appearance at the last minute.

By contrast, a spokesperson for football legend David Beckham, who has long championed the sport as a force for good, said “He [was] looking forward to what he thinks will be a great tournament.”

The 27-year-old Lipa, perhaps fearing a backlash from a “woke” fan base, now denies that she was ever in financial negotiations to perform.

But could her new-found horror about performing stem from the organizers’ refusal to meet her ever-increasing demands for a bigger payday?

The truth is that this, the first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nation to host the World Cup, has long embraced the game of football and is using this honor to drive progressive change. For this and other reasons, the hypocrisy of the entertainment community in general and superstar singers to dismiss Qatar as a “bad actor” should in fact be condemned.

Muhammad Ali was a Muslim. He was also a profound thinker and proponent of global tolerance admired the world over, from the United States to North Korea.

Dua Lipa would do well to emulate Muhammad Ali rather than the virtue-signaling Hollywood crowd that finds condemnation easier than working to build community.

Why not leverage her own Muslim heritage and call out the media for their benighted efforts to undermine an event intended to foster true tolerance and spirited competition?