The first World Aquatics Championships to be held in the Middle East officially opened in front of a capacity crowd which included IOC Members, senior Qatari dignitaries, and members of the World Aquatics family. The creative Ceremony emphasised that “in water there are no borders” while paying tribute to both Qatari history and the six aquatic sports that are on show in Doha over 17 days of competition.

Following a stunning performance of the Qatar national anthem by a local children’s choir, Qatari artist Azzam Al Mannai, famous for his photography of Qatar’s native whale sharks, emphasised water’s role in connecting the world. The audience’s immersive experience was then enhanced as their wristbands lit up the arena.

With the colours and flags of all the competing nations projected by the pool together, white flags were flown as a symbol of peace. Nada Mohammed Wafa, the first woman to represent Qatar at the Olympics when she swam at the London 2012 Games, delivered a powerful message as the voice of peace.

Nada said: “We are forever connected by water. However, our connection to water serves as far more than just a reminder of what we have in common. Our connection to water is a constant, forgiving fountain that continues to lift us closer to the core of who we are: teaching us the essence of what we could be.

“If a single drop of water can always be welcomed into the ocean, then every soul can always be welcomed into peace. Mahmoud Darwish says “poetry and beauty are always making peace. When you read something beautiful, you find coexistence; it breaks walls down.” I call on us all to become living manifestations of the poetry and beauty needed to create peace. I call on us to break walls down, to coexist in peace.”

The message of peace was reinforced by world-renowned dance troupe, Murmuration by Sadeck Berrabah, whose captivating and hypnotising performance concluded with the dancers spelling out ‘peace’ and ‘salam’. Throughout the ceremony, the pool was illuminated with stunning projections of Qatar’s marine wildlife, its historic connection with the sea and images of the six aquatics sports being competed in during the Championships: swimming, artistic swimming, open water swimming, diving, high diving, and water polo.

World Aquatics President Husain Al Musallam said: “This is a very significant moment for our sport. It is the first time that our Championships have been held in the Middle East. In recent years Doha has become firmly established as one of the world’s best locations for hosting major sports events, and I am absolutely delighted that our athletes will have the opportunity to compete in this great city.

“I wish good luck to all the athletes. We are so proud of you. Every year the standards that you set are higher and higher. I know that sports fans all over the world will be in awe of your performances. You are great role models.”

Doha 2024 Vice-Chairman and Qatar Olympic Committee Secretary General Jassim bin Rashid Al Buainain said: “On this historic moment, the world comes together to celebrate Aquatics, and for a chance to qualify to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games; with more than 2600 athletes from 201 nations and the World Aquatics Refugee Team competing for top honours while upholding the values of understanding and fair play.

“The State of Qatar views sport as a top priority because it plays a crucial role in human development, it brings people together, it builds a better understanding and connection between different cultures, and it creates a lasting legacy for millions of youth in the region and the entire world.”

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