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CONNECT THE WORLD
Kazakhstan Hopes To Showcase Beauty As Host Of Winter Olympics; Iraqi Security Forces Amass to Retake Ramadi; A Look at the Amenities of Being an Elite In Pyongyang; Grading Narenda Modi's First Year In Office; Washington Post Critics Question Validity of Washington Post Journalist's Trial. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET
Aired May 26, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:22] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST; Streaming into Baghdad with what little they can carry, refugees continue to flee ISIS controlled Ramadi.
Well, tonight, can a newly launched military operation liberate the city? Or will it only worsen sectarian tensions. We are live from the
Iraqi capital in just a moment for you.
Also ahead, a scorching heat wave in India leaves 700 people dead. And there are signs temperatures will break any time soon.
And charged with espionage, a Washington Post reporter goes on trial in Tehran. We'll speak to another Iranian-American who faced a nightmare
similar to Jason Rezaian's.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.
ANDERSON: Preparing for days and now Iraqi forces have launched a major offensive to retake two provinces from ISIS.
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province fell to ISIS a little more than a week ago. And in the past couple of hours, the country's defense
ministry announced that Iraqi security forces and Shia militia are now surrounding the terror group from all sides.
In Salahuddin province just north of Ramadi. Iraqi forces hope to cut a supply route and liberate Baiji City and its oil refinery.
Well, the fall of Ramadi was a major defeat for Iraq's military forces, which were -- we were led to believe -- making perhaps slow but
steady progress against ISIS.
Nick Paton Walsh is live for you in Baghdad. Nick, is it clear whether this counterattack against the militants will be successful?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it isn't clear. And it depends on obviously many factors. I think there are some
who consider that if the Iraqi forces arrayed against ISIS now cooperate and had their act together, then they stand the substantial chance of
dislodging ISIS whose numbers in Ramadi aren't clear at the moment. They have well over a week to reinforce their positions and dig in. But the
question is the level of cooperation.
Now some doubts thrown on that by the nature of which the announcement of today's operation beginning was made. State television put out much of
the first messaging, but it was left really to the Shia militia backed by Iran.
The Hashd al Shaabi took a press conference where they first went into the details of what they were going to do alongside the Iraqi security
forces. And they said they hoped potentially thousands of local tribes people from Salahuddin, the province to the north of Anbar, and potentially
also from Anbar as well.
But as you mentioned, the first target is that supply route to the north of Anbar running towards Baiji oil refinery. It is in the later
stages that we will see potentially moves made against Ramadi, the capital of Anbar.
But now we have an announcement of this broader operation to purge Anbar and Salahuddin of ISIS. But I think more troubling for those
observing the sectarian nature of Iraq and potentially this operation as well, it was the Hashd al Shaabi who gave this operation its name. And
they said it would be called answering the call of Hussein.
Now that is redolent in Shia terminology, culture. Hussein was the son of Ali, the founder of Shiaism. And I think many who were looking to
see this become something under the Iraqi flag, which encompassed both Sunni participants and Shia as well as the Iraqi army and police will see
potentially see that early branding as a bid by those Shia militia to claim ownership and maybe be on the front foot in terms of dictating how this
That could cause problems certainly when it comes to holding this vital Sunni area, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nick, reports that France's foreign minister has said that unless international coalition -- the international coalition strengthens
quickly, Iraq and Syria risk being divided. Do you concur?
WALSH: Well, it is divided. I mean, we are talking about a series of nations whose previous borders de facto aren't really there any more. ISIS
have now gained control of pretty much the entirety of the Syrian-Iraqi border.
So, yes, there is this belief I think internationally that fast action could mean that Iraq and Syria retain the borders they had before 2011 when
this spiral into sectarian violence and non-state actors controlling pockets of land in northern Syria and northern Iraq began. But I think you
have to really look to a massive concerted effort and also the Baghdad government here for Iraq's part being keen to retain those Sunni areas. We
have a lot of criticism that Anbar wasn't really something they wanted to fight too much for, particularly from the head of the Pentagon.
And I think the notion that the French can suggest maybe broader international cooperation, swifter action, can turn the clock back,
particularly in Syria where it looks to all intents and purposes that a mixture of jihadi and ISIS groups are putting the Assad regime in Damascus
very much on their back foot to the point where they, frankly, made us be hoping to hold on to Damascus and the coastal enclave they have to the
north of Lebanon.
Well, it's a lot further down the road now, I think, from potentially Laurent Fabius saying swift international action can retain those
countries' borders. They are in a very bad state at this time. You have to have a phenomenally successful political solution to keep that sense of
nationhood intact -- Becky.
[11:05:42] ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh is in Baghdad for you this evening. Thank you, Nick.
Well, a scorching heat wave has settled over large parts of India killing hundreds of people. In the past few days alone, the hardest hit
state is Andhra Pradesh in the southeast.
Temperatures in some areas have soared as high as 48 degrees Celsius.
Mallika Kapur tells us what people are doing to escape the misery.
MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An extreme heat wave is sweeping across India. More than 760 people have died either from a sun
stroke or from dehydration.
Temperatures are soaring, touching 48 degrees Celsius, that's 118 degrees Fahrenheit in some places.
The states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the south are the worst hit. The capital New Delhi, parts of Ragistan in the west and Bengal in
the east are reeling from the heat, too.
The most vulnerable: people who don't have access to shelter, the homeless, constructions workers, beggars, migrant laborers who often live
on the streets and the elderly.
Local disaster management officials in some states are urging people to stay indoors between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. They're asking them to
wear cotton clothes, to use hats, and umbrellas. And they're also distributing water and buttermilk to help people stay hydrated and to
The heat wave exposes India's weak spot: power. Around a third of India's 1.2 billion people don't have reliable access to power, that means
they don't even have a fan to cool off under.
It also means those who can afford air conditioners are using them for much longer.
This surge in demand for power often leads to power cuts in many parts of the country, making a terrible situation worse.
Unfortunately, relief is still far off. Meteorologists say the monsoon rains, which will no doubt bring down temperatures, won't hit until
at least the end of the month.
Mallika Kapur, CNN, Mumbai.
ANDERSON: And we have just learned that the death toll sadly has risen even higher in India. Officials say 894 people have now died in the
heat wave over the past several days.
More on India later in this show. Narendra Modi just completed his first year as prime minister. We'll get a report card on his performance.
And we'll talk to Ravi Agrawal, CNN's New Delhi bureau chief, about what we can expect to see in the year ahead.
Well, a crippling fuel strike that brought Nigeria's economy to a standstill may be over, but the impact of chronic shortages won't end
Drivers in Lagos are having to wait in long queues yet again as petrol stations begin to reopen. Fuel marketeer agreed to resume distribution on
Monday after weeks of disruption.
Well, let's get the very latest from Christian Purefoy who is in Lagos.
Now this crisis affected everything from banking operations to cell phone service to airline travel. How are people coping?
CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, Becky, I mean, people are now thinking that good news is being able
to wait in line to get their petrol. And it is gridlock outside most of the petrol stations here in Lagos. And that fuel is now being distributed
across Nigeria as the strike on the importation of petrol and diesel has been lifted.
Just one example of the impact that this has had in grinding Nigeria to an absolute halt, we went to a hospital and they said not only are they
are running out of diesel to keep operations going, but that didn't matter because people couldn't even get into the hospital to make calls, because
they couldn't charge their phones to the hospital.
It has grounded Africa's largest economy, Africa's largest oil producer and most populous nation to an absolute halt.
And, Becky, that really is the thing here is that people are very angry about what has happened, because it has exposed the rot at the center
of the system that is supposed to keep this country going, that basically a handful of fuel importers demanding an unaudited $1 billion for payment of
fuel imports can bring the country to its knees.
[11:10:05] ANDERSON: Christian Purefoy is in Lagos.
Well, still to come tonight, he was sworn in as India's prime minister a year ago, but has Narendra Modi lived up to expectations? I want to
explore that for you in about 20 minutes time.
Up next, though, a prominent U.S. journalist faces a secret trial in Tehran. We'll talk with someone who has experienced Iran's legal system up
Taking a very short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: This is CNN and Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
It is, what, 12 minutes past 7:00 here in the UAE.
He has been sitting in an Iranian prison for 10 months. And on Tuesday, the trial of the Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian
finally got underway.
Now he is charged with espionage in a revolutionary court. The proceedings closed to the public and to his family.
The Iranian state news agency says today's hearing was adjourned within two hours. It is not clear when the trial will resume.
The executive editor of The Washington Post says the charges are absurd. And he calls Rezaian's treatment in the Iranian justice system,
quote, shameful and disgraceful.
Well, our next guest can relate to Rezaian's predicament. In 2007, Haleh Esfandiari was held in Ibn Prison (ph) for 105 days and charged with
espionage. She's currently director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center and joins us tonight.
And thank you for that.
What was your experience of the system?
HALEH ESFANDIARI, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I was never charged. I was accused of being a spy. I was not put on
trial. And I think that's the big difference. Unfortunately, Jason has been kept in jail for 10 months and I believe these are trumped up charges,
because if they were not trumped up charges they would have had an open trial. Why have a trial behind closed doors and after 10 months?
ANDERSON: Yeah, the Iranians say that is at the discretion of the judge to open up a trial like this, and that they have no intention of
giving any details it seems.
Jason's brother Ali spoke to CNN, Haleh, a short while ago. Here is some of what he had to say about his brother and the trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:15:01] ALI REZAIAN, JASON REZAIAN'S BROTHER: What we do know is our expectation was that they would be reading the charges to Jason and
that he would have probably some opportunity to respond to that. His lawyer was present was with him and that was it.
Both my mother and my sister-in-law went to the court hoping that they would be able to go in there, but because they closed the court they were
not able to go into the trial. They sat there and basically waited all day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Haleh, as I said you'd been caught up in Iran's legal process yourself, what's the likelihood of him being found guilty of
espionage? And then what sort of sentence would he face?
ESFANDIARI: Well, unfortunately, Jason is being tried by a judge who is notorious for doing the bidding of the intelligence ministry. And in
the past he has been given harsh sentences, but I -- my sense is that once he sentences Jason, there are three options. One, that he would give him a
harsh sentence and automatically his lawyer -- Jason's lawyer will appeal. And the appeal court can either throw that sentence out like in the case of
the former Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi in 2009, or the appeal court can reduce the sentence to the number of months that Jason has served
in jail and free him.
These are the more hopeful scenarios. But the appeal court can also confirm any sentence that Judge Salavatian (ph) will give. But we just
don't know when the next session of the court is going to be. We have to wait and see.
ANDERSON: Haleh, Jason Rezaian, as you know, is just the latest in a string of Americans imprisoned in Iran. I want our viewers to just get a
sense of some of the most prominent cases.
Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. marine has been held since August of 2011 on accusations of spying for the CIA. He denies those charges. Roxana
Saberi, another Iranian-American journalist in 2009 was freed after spending three months in Iranian detention plus a trial for espionage.
Iran arrested three American hikers that same year, our viewers may remember this, near the unmarked border between Iran and northern Iraq, two
spent 26 months in prison and were put on trial for spying. All maintained their innocence.
How credible do you think the allegations by Jason's supporters are that he is simply a pawn in a wider power struggle within the corridors of
power in Tehran with -- between those who are supporters of Rouhani's government who, as we all know, are at present negotiating with the U.S.
and the west over the nuclear deal, and the more hard-line elements in government who may wish to embarrass Rouhani?
ESFANDIARI: Well, I think it's the later. And I've all along argued that arresting Jason, keeping him in prison for such a long time, and then
finally bringing him on trial is just an effort by the hard-liners -- by the judiciary, which is an independent entity from the government, to
embarrass President Rouhani, to embarrass the foreign minister and the whole team of negotiators, because probably wherever Mr. Zarif goes, the
question of Jason and other Iranian-American inmates comes up. And he has to explain knowing quite well that he doesn't have much authority over the
judiciary system in Iran.
ANDERSON: President Obama has spoken about this case. He has questioned the, and I quote, vague allegations against Jason. He's also
called for the release of those other Americans who are being detained. And we do also know that the Secretary of State John Kerry has bought
Jason's case up during these nuclear talks with his counterpart in the Rouhani government, what sort of pressure, if any, will the Iranian
government feel under as a result of both President Obama and John Kerry raising this issue? Will it make any difference at all?
ESFANDIARI: Well, of course it does make a difference, because when Mr. Zarif goes back to Tehran I'm sure he brings up these issues with the
president and the president -- President Rouhani, and President Rouhani probably mentions it to the head of the judiciary, to the supreme leader,
that whenever we go for our negotiations this issue is raised and we really just to -- or we have to decide to just find a solution for it.
So, of course it is embarrassing for them. And in the past, also, Iran has been since it -- sensitive to outside pressure, both in the
hiker's case, in Roxana's case, in my case, and in other you know, dual citizen's case.
It might take longer, but at the end they react to international pressure, especially since the judge that is presiding over Jason's trial
was blacklisted by the European Union, a group of Iranians were blacklisted. He was blacklisted, Judge Saleh Voti (ph) was also
blacklisted because of violation of human rights, because of giving death sentences, because of mass trials.
Well, we will continue to cover this story and as an when the trial continues we will report on it. Haleh, for the time being, thank you very
much indeed for joining us.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Coming up, expectations were high, but did India's prime
minister live up to them in his first year in office. I want to explore that for you just a little later on.
First up, though, a cultural conversion: two of Singapore's iconic buildings will reopen later this year. One Square Meter looks at what they
will be housing. Up next.
JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: This majestic neoclassical building was Singapore's former Supreme Court built in 1939 just a few
months before the outbreak of the Second World War.
SUSANNA GAH: So beside me here are two of the holding cells -- there were 12 originally in this building. And they've managed to keep two of
them in situ preserved as they were. The prisoners were brought in here on a daily basis to have their trials plead. And they were kept in these
JOHN DEFTERIOS: Next door within these very corridors of the old city hall, the Japanese surrendered to the allied forces in September 1945. In
1965, Singapore was declared an independent republic here, too.
These two witnesses to history are now getting a new lease on life, married and renovated into Singapore's national art gallery.
[11:25:02] GAH: One of the first key issues that they struggled with was how do we take two such important buildings, put them together under
one banner with the National Gallery.
DEFTERIOS: Measuring more than 60,000 square meters, the new museum cost over $300 million and 10 years to build. It was an engineering feat
like no other -- ambitious but delicate at the same time.
GAH: Because of the important historic importance of these buildings, we had very strict (inaudible) guidelines with these buildings. And we had
to restore and keep all the external facades of these buildings.
DEFTERIOS: At one point, the entire city hall building was suspended so that the architectural team could dig up and strengthen the foundation
underneath it. Now just the final touches remain before the opening later this year.
WANMIN HO: You can tell just by coming to this space you know what's old you know what's new, but yet at the same time there's a very harmonious
blend to the way the new architecture is integrating together with the historical.
DEFTERIOS: A project of his scale and significance is a bold move for a country that so far has not had a profound connection with art. The most
recent survey by the National Arts Council found only 28 percent of respondents were interested in arts and culture. Museum visitorship
tripled between 2005 and 2013, but a lot of those visitors were first- timers. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The understanding, appreciation of art in Southeast Asia has not been -- is not the -- art education, appreciation
can start and must start with the very young.
So we have a dedication center for art education.
DEFTERIOS: It is hoped that these Corinthian columns of the past will inspire creativity in the future generations.
John Defterious, CNN.
ANDERSON: This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back. These are your headlines.
Joint Iraqi forces have begun a major operation against ISIS in two provinces: Anbar and Salahuddin. Government troops backed by Shia militia
and Sunni tribal fighters. Iraq's defense ministry says forces are now surrounding ISIS from all sides in Ramadi, which is the capital of Anbar.
Kenyan police clashed with suspected al Shabaab militants after an ambush near the Somali border. Militants attacked police patrols north of
Garissa claiming to have killed at least 20 officers. Kenya's interior ministry denied that saying five police officers were wounded.
Officials in India say a blistering heat wave could last another two days before temperatures begin to cool off. The government now says 894
people have died from the heat in less than a week. Temperatures have soared as high as 48 degrees Celsius, that is 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
NATO military exercises have begun in Scandinavia. Around 100 guests from the United States and eight European countries are training near the
Arctic. Military officials say they are testing cooperation among Arctic nations near Russia.
Well, on the same day as the NATO drills, Russia has begun what it calls a massive surprise military exercise involving some 12,000 personnel
and 250 aircraft to test combat readiness.
CNN international correspondent Matthew Chance joining us now with more from Moscow --Matthew.
[11:31:14] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It certainly was a surprise to the NATO military planners who said
that they wanted to see more transparency in Russia's plans to stage these large-scale military exercises in the future.
The Russian maneuvers are said to be preparations for a much bigger military exercise that has been preplanned and preannounced some time later
this year. It's going to involve something like 12 -- or it's involving right now something like 12,000 Russian troops and 250 aircraft. One of
the exercises they're going to be doing is carrying out strikes with cruise missiles on targets, imaginary enemies, they're calling them, inside, of
course, Russia's borders in these exercises.
And again, meant to be a display of combat readiness or a test of combat readiness for Russia's air defense forces.
But of course they send a message, it's no coincidence as you mentioned that these surprise military exercises in Russia have begun on
the same day that NATO forces are engaged in an exercise of their own across the border in Scandinavia in the Arctic region, which is of course
becoming an area of increased competition between Russia and the west. There, NATO forces say at least 100 aircraft, more than 100 aircraft in
fact, fighter jets, will be taking place with joint exercises between various multinationals -- multinational countries.
There will also be something in the region of 3,600 troops taking part as well. They say this is merely a training exercise, not designed to
rattle the saber or anything like that, but are purely for defensive means. But of course that's not how these NATO exercises are perceived in Moscow,
ANDERSON: Matthew Chance reporting for you.
Well, he was a beacon of hope during India's election last year saying what the people wanted to hear while making very big promises. Well, that
is how Narendra Modi swept the polls becoming the first Indian prime minister in three decades to control a complete majority in the country's
lower house of parliament.
Well, now it's been 12 months since he took office, so what did he achieve? Sumnima Udas has that.
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If there's one world leader who emerged in the public consciousness in 2014, it was Narendra
Modi. From a sold out reception at New York's Madison Square Garden to an unprecedented welcome in China for an Indian premier, traveling an
impressive 50 out of the past 365 days to some 18 countries, Modi embraced them all.
SHEKHAR GUPTA, JOURNALIST: So much was expected of him. And frankly, for me, nobody could have revolutionized India's economy in a year. India
is a juggernaut. It's a big, huge machine on creaky wheels that millions and millions and billions of people, in fact, have to push forward. One
individual cannot do it.
UDAS: Few can deny the economy has improved -- stock markets soared, inflation dipped. Much of this (inaudible) the collapse in global oil
prices, but still India is set to overtake China and become the fastest growing major economy this year.
The murmurs of dissatisfaction, even amongst his biggest supporters, corporate India, are starting to be heard though. They say he hasn't moved
quickly enough with labor and tax reforms. Investor sentiment is also cooling.
But perhaps his biggest shortfall, many criticize Modi for not doing enough to stop members of his own Hindu nationalist party and allies from
organizing forced religious conversion ceremonies and making anti-minority statements in parliament.
[11:35:00] GUPTA: Multiculturalism, pluralism, is India's greatest strength. I wish he had paid more attention to that and in a diverse
society like this, you have to reach out to minorities, ethnicities, give them a good reason to stay together.
UDAS: For his part, Modi did say his government will ensure freedom of faith. It is just one issue, among many.
Turning around a country as big and diverse as India in one year was always going to be a challenge, but political observers say for the
optimism and momentum to last and for real change to happen, Modi needs to deliver more and soon.
Sumnima Udas, CNN, New Delhi.
ANDERSON: Well, for more on Mr. Modi's year in office and what we should expect in the year ahead, I'm joined by Ravi Agrawal. He is CNN's
New Delhi bureau chief joining me tonight from New York.
365 days on from what was a momentous day. I was there in India as it unfolded with you, of course. How are Indians feeling? Are their lives
RAVI AGRAWAL, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Hey, Becky.
Yes, their lives actually have improved. If you look at the main metric, so inflation would be number one. For the last seven, eight, 10
years, inflation in India has been skyrocketing. Since Modi came to power inflation has really gone down. So on that count alone, Indians would
probably say that they feel better. India is growing faster than it has in previous years. And of course there is an undeniable energy to India that
Modi has brought to the table. And that's in part by boosting hopes, by telling Indians and the world that India can do so much more.
And therein lies the problem, Becky. He has perhaps promised too much. As you and I both saw one year ago when he came to power he said he
was going to fix India's broken infrastructure. He said he would make sure that every Indian had a toilet in their homes. He said he was going to
make India an easier place to do business. These are big ticket issues that need big, bold reforms. That hasn't happened yet.
ANDERSON: You've recently written an op ed, Ravi, on Mr. Modi's year in power. I just want to read an excerpt of that for our viewers. You
say, and I quote, Modi's mantra for the next 365 days should be less PR and more action, especially at home. He still has the tools and the confidence
of the people to be India's most transformative leader in history.
What chance, Ravi, he will achieve that?
AGRAWAL: Well, it depends on how much he focuses on the biggest issues at home. Modi has been traveling a lot outside of India, some 52
days out of his 365 days in power. And he has faced some criticism at home for that.
But when I say that Modi has the tools to transform India, what I mean is that this is -- you know, Modi has a complete majority in India's lower
house of parliament. And to put that in context, no Indian prime minister has had that luxury in 30 years. So with that mandate, with those seats in
the house Modi does have a responsibility to push through bigger reforms.
Unless he really starts focusing on them, making difficult decisions that might be unpopular in the short-term, he will struggle to maintain his
mandate and his support nationwide over the next 365 days.
ANDERSON: Ravi, how has foreign policy changed under Mr. Modi? How does and will it impact India's place on the global stage going forward, do
AGRAWAL: So, I think on that one count most observers in India will say that Modi has done really well. And most observers outside of India
will say Modi has done even better.
Over the last many decades, India has had a fairly benign foreign policy. It hasn't punched its weight, given that it is, you know, a
country with 1.2 billion people. Modi really has injected more energy into the way Indian is seen globally. He's been very proactive at meeting
Obama, at going to China, visiting other countries, talking about how India can do more, you know, in coordination with other countries. He helped
Nepal when Nepal had its earthquake about a month ago. India was very, very proactive to help.
Now, that hasn't always been the case in the past. And so Modi has been very proactive in pushing through a muscular foreign policy. And that
will have benefits for India in the long-term.
ANDERSON: Ravi Agrawal out of New York for you this evening.
You can get more from Ravi online where you can find his blog on the first year of Modi and follow along with our extensive coverage of what is
India's terrible heat wave, which has taken well over 890 lives, nearly 900 lives so far. Just head to CNN.com/Asia.
You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi. Coming up, a day in the life, CNN's Will Ripley gets an exclusive
look at the lifestyles of the rich and powerful in North Korea. Stay with us.
First up, though, stepping up to host the Winter Olympics: Kazakhstan wants to be the first central Asian nation to do so. So, my colleague
Amanda Davies looks at their bid for you. CNN's Sports Next Frontier is next.
[11:42:38] ANDERSON: Now all this week on Connect the World, we will be taking you on a trip to some would be sporting powerhouses. Three
former Soviet states are competing for dominance in Central Asia. And today, we're looking at Kazakhstan, a nation hoping to become the first
central Asian host of the Winter Olympics.
But as pressure mounts for organizers to take a stand on states with questionable human rights records, is Kazakhstan a serious contender?
Well, Amanda Davies has this exclusive look at the bid.
AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Kazakhstan, home to the comic character Borat, seen here in Sasha Baron Cohen's Academy Award-
nominated movie. And for many, that's all they know about the world's largest landlocked country.
A former Soviet state that's used its natural oil and gas to develop that largest economy in Central Asia, but now it's looking to change
perceptions and blow the world away with its big sporting ambitions.
Early morning in Almaty and the runners stream into the central stadium. All eyes are on the track today, but the future of this city as a
sporting center lies in its mountains, not its marathons. It is bidding to become the first central Asian host of an Olympics.
ANDREY KRYUKOV, VICE CHAIRMAN ALMATY 2022: Almaty is created for the winter games. It's the city of the passion of winter sport. For us, it's
a big challenge, but we will fight until the end. And we will believe that we will host it.
DAVIES: Almaty is going head to head with Beijing for the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. There are many who think it has a real
mountain to climb.
But in an age of increasing financial pressures, Almaty claims it'll be the most efficient and economical games in 30 years.
KRYUKOV: The radius of the games is 30 kilometers. We save more than $500 million just to move program between the venues and (inaudible).
DAVIES: During our visit, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev was sworn in for his fifth term of office, claiming nearly 98 percent of
the vote. But whilst his 24 year rule continues virtually unchallenged, the Olympic movement, based in Switzerland, is entering a new era. Its new
roadmap, agenda 2020, means the pressure is on for sport to step up.
[11:45:15] THOMAS BACH, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: The rule of the IOC is the one to ensure that during the games, and for all the
participants, the Olympic charter applies. That means, again tolerance, no discrimination, understanding dialogue. To know that our actions, our
decisions have political implications.
DAVIES: The International Olympic Committee brought in new rules after the 2014 Winter Games placed a huge spotlight on the plight of
exploited migrant workers in Sochi. But Human Rights Watch believes that legislation would be tested in Almaty.
RACHEL DUNBAR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The IOC is really going to be put to the test if Kazakhstan ends up being selected, the IOC will have to
enforce the human rights protections that it recently adopted as part of its reforms, otherwise those reforms will be meaningless.
DAVIES: During the Soviet era, a Kazakh athletes excelled in speed skating, 120 world records were set in Almaty's Mediur's (ph) ice rink. At
the last Winter Olympics, Kazakhstan won just one medal in figure skating.
The athletes are hoping for more to come, but it's impossible to skate over the political motivation for hosting major sporting events the profile
investment and development that they bring.
KARINA UZUROVA, FIGURE SKATER: We'll be so excited to host in Almaty the Olympic Games. I think it's not just sport, it -- yes, we want to show
our beautiful country. And we want to show it for all of the world what we have.
KRYUKOV: It's not only sport, development of tourism in the region, it's a big, big future for us.
DAVIES: Kazakhstan got a taste of what could be in store when Almaty and Astana (ph) hosted the 2011 Asian winter games.
SABYRZKHAN MURNINOV, SKI JUMPER (through translator): I can see that the athletes in other countries recognize us now and are just saying, oh,
Kazakhstan. We're able to stand side by side in the same row as these foreign athletes and compete.
DAVIES: Sabyrzhan and his fellow competitors will hear Almaty's fate on July 31 when the name of the host city for 2022 is revealed.
MURNINOV: I would compare this feeling with the feeling when you are passing your exams, when you wrote your answers, and you are waiting for
your results. So this is the feeling now with the athletes. And we do hope we will host the Olympic games.
DAVIES: Kazakhstan is hoping for recognition. The Olympic movement wants reform. Whatever happens there's a feeling that the 2022 Winter
Olympics has a real opportunity to cut some ice as a catalyst for change.
ANDERSON: Well, Amanda Davies is in London for you tonight joining me from there. How will the country's human rights record ultimately affect
its potential to host these Olympics, do you think?
DAVIES: Well, Becky, the situation we're in, because so many countries dropped out in terms of the race to host the Winter Olympics in
2022 in light of the vast amount of spending around Sochi means that the human rights campaigners haven't been backwards in coming forwards of their
criticism of both Kazakhstan and Beijing. There's a little bit of a feeling that the International Olympic Committee really can't win in terms
of 2022. They have to pick one of them.
A little bit earlier, I spoke to a former Olympian, a German Olympian, and now somebody who works for Transparency International who is looking at
the role of sport in terms of doing the right thing, Silva Shank, and she said that she feels that the IOC perhaps will favor Kazakhstan, they think.
In this case it's the least worst option, but that these aren't just words from the IOC. The Agenda 2020 reforms means they really do want to take
action going forward, but that perhaps this campaign is a little bit too late.
It's also been (inaudible) that Kazakhstan are going to bid for a World Cup in 2026, so the spotlight will remain on them for them.
But of course perhaps Kazakhstan's largest sporting export to date is their cycling team Astana, a team that have been the center of so much
scandal throughout their history. They've only just recently managed to retain their world tour license amidst another doping scandal. And on
Wednesday's addition of Sport's New Frontier, we'll be catching up with them, including their star rider, the Tour de France champion Vincenzo
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:50:01] VICENZO NIBALI, 2014 TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER (through translator): Nobody can guarantee that a rider who is motivated to disrupt
the system doesn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIES: Yeah, Becky, we'll be hearing from Nibali and their team manager Alexander Vinokourov, somebody who is the face and the brand of
ANDERSON: Super, Amanda. Thank you for that.
Stay tuned for the rest of the series this week. As Amanda said as we explore Sport's New Forntier every evening 7:40 p.m. Abu Dhabi time.
Tomorrow, as Amanda said, Kazakhstan looking at why its national cycling team is so controversial.
You're in Abu Dhabi with me. It is 10 to 8:00 here.
Coming up, today's Parting Shots -- and dreaming of a homeland they have never seen. Kolkata's Afghani community clinging to their ancient
heritage in what is a rapidly modernizing world.
ANDERSON: Well, it is no secret that the life of an average North Korean is pretty tough, but for the country's powerful and elite, the
picture couldn't be more different. CNN's Will Ripley went to the capital and has what is this exclusive look inside one of the world's most closed
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The North Koreans took us here to show us their dolphins, but the audience really got our attention. This is
the kind of unscripted emotion we rarely see in North Korea.
Government propaganda shows over the top adulation for the supreme leader. But these smiles, these belly laughs are real, especially when our
CNN photojournalist gets pulled on stage.
This dolphinarium (ph), just one stop on our government-guided sightseeing tour showing all the perks for Pyongyang's elite, their lives
drastically different from millions of North Koreans we're not allowed to see, living in poor, rural areas, tending fields by hand. Experts say as
many as half the population hungry.
But when it wants to, North Korea and its young leader will spend millions on vanity projects, b building extravagant amenities like this
horse riding club.
No expense spared in this brand new orphanage. Kids get regular visits from King Jong-un, a man they call father. But the orphanage is
Most North Koreans in the capital live in drab housing blocs assigned by the government. We're shown only the newest, best neighborhoods like
these apartments for elite North Korean scientists.
They even have their own vacation resort. The government prepared to spend lavishly to reward key personnel.
That's you right there.
More special perks for those who train the elite. Senior professors at Pyongyang's most prestigious university get these free luxury
How does this compare to some of your friends and family members' homes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is much better.
RIPLEY: But even the best homes need solar panels, backup power during regular outages.
We also visit the supreme leader's lavish new water park, a gift for his people, featuring a life-sized statue of his late father Kim Jong-il,
which must be revered like a religious artifact.
Everybody who enters the water park first pays their respects to the late leader Kim Jong-il who died in 2011.
Parkgoers have nothing but praise.
[11:55:24] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want more foreigners to come here because I want them to be captivated by the great
personality of our supreme leader Marshall Kim Jong-un.
RIPLEY: These luxuries you'll only find in the showpiece capital, home to the most trusted, loyal citizens, proudly displayed as symbols of
national greatness as millions of people struggles are kept hidden from the world.
Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
ANDERSON: Well, in tonight's Parting Shots just before we go I want to get you an inside look at one of Kolkata's mysterious minorities. Two
photographers have captured the life of this Indian city's Afghani community, a people who arrived there as traders centuries ago and whose
descendants no endeavor to maintain their Afghan heritage. Have a look at this.
MOSICA NAJIB, PHOTOJOURNALIST: My name is Mosica Najib. I'm a photojournalist and originally I'm from Afghanistan.
I looked into a very famous short story written by an Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore called Kabuliwala. It's the story of a man from a
distant land, Afghanistan, but living in Kolkata to earn his living and send money back home.
I decided to collaborate with my colleague (inaudible) to go to the city of Kolkata and research more, to tell the narrative of the 21st
Century Kabuliwala's through photography.
You could see that, you know, the way these Afghan men who had never really been back to their homeland have preserved their traditions, be it
wearing traditional clothes or sitting in a traditional way -- in a communal way, eating food (inaudible) culture, or celebrating some of their
biggest festivities in new home or in a new space.
I think it's really interesting that they had this symbolic connection with this imaginary land. They still manage to preserve in their minds.
This project was more than just documentary photography, that it really goes at the depths of belonging and how that fills the tensions between
ANDERSON: Your Parting Shots this evening.
I'm Becky Anderson. That was Connect the World. From the team here in Abu Dhabi and those helping us around the world, it is a very good