The BBC’s decision to not air the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup live has drawn criticism from sports fans as well as politicians and journalists.
The World Cup kicked off in Qatar on Sunday with the Muslim nation, which faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBT rights and social restrictions, staking its reputation on delivering a smooth tournament.
American actor Morgan Freeman and a performance of a new tournament song called Dreamers featuring singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS, alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi were among the highlights of the ceremony.
However, the BBC relegated the ceremony to the “Red Button” service — additional programmes that can be accessed by pressing a red button on the TV remote — and online, TRT World said in a report.
“Instead, BBC One’s coverage was mainly focused on the alleged human rights and other accusations against Qatar,” the report added.
“It’s the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn’t even been kicked,” said the Match of the Day host Gary Lineker as he welcomed viewers to the start of the national broadcaster’s coverage on BBC One, according to The Guardian.
The report went on to say that BBC declined to comment on why the opening ceremony of the world’s biggest sporting event was shunted.
British journalist Piers Morgan slammed the BBC for its decision, saying it was “outrageously disrespectful”.
“If they’re that appalled, they should bring home their vast army of employees and spare us this absurd hypocrisy,” he said.
In another tweet, he questioned why the BBC chose to air the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. “Are China’s human rights abuses not as bad as Qatar’s?”
British MP Scott Benton said, “Thirty minutes into the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup and football hasn’t had a mention. Overpaid @GaryLineker and co lecturing the world on climate emissions, human rights and more.
“If they’re that bothered why did they go? Could have saved thousands and reported on it from the UK,” he said.
Commentator James Melville said that while he understood why the BBC had opened their World Cup broadcasting with a condemnation of Qatar’s human rights record, he could not remember them doing the same when China hosted the Winter Olympics.
Journalist Ayman Mohyeldin also shared a similar view. “The BBC didn’t air Qatar’s World Cup opening ceremony in protest. Yet just 9 months ago, the BBC aired the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in China,” he said, terming it to be the “epitome of hypocrisy and double standards”.
Meanwhile, sports fans were also less than pleased by the decision. According to a report by The Sun, football fans in the UK were left “stunned”.
“I have never known the BBC to not show an opening ceremony before,” the report quoted one fan as saying while another termed it to be “an absolute joke”.
Additional input from AFP