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Connect the World
Branson's Virgin Galactic Spaceflight to Launch Sunday; Police Show Suspects in Plot to Kill Haiti's President; Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal Despite Taliban Gains; Taliban Say They Control 85 Percent of Territory; Qatar in Final Stretch of Ambitious World Cup Preparations. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 09, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Atlanta. This is "Connect the World".
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Welcome back to "Connect the World". I'm Lynda Kinkade filling in for my colleague Becky Anderson. Good
to have you with us.
Well, for many it seemed like vaccines meant an end this pandemic but U.S. based Drug Company Pfizer wants its COVID vaccine isn't protecting people
forever. The company is working to develop a booster shot.
Pfizer says it's going to publish its findings based on real world data from the Israeli Ministry of Health as well as its own phase three trials.
Well, on Thursday, the company said it's going to seek emergency use authorization for the booster from U.S. regulators next month but just
hours later, an unusual move from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
They issued a joint statement saying Americans don't need a booster shot just yet. Well, the major concern we've been reporting is of course, the
Delta variant. The W.H.O. says it has now been detected in 100 countries and it is much more contagious and fueling a devastating third wave in
places with low vaccination rates like South Africa.
Doctors there describe as distant beyond its breaking point. And that's where we find our David McKenzie. He joins us now from Johannesburg. And of
course, David, this is a virus that knows no boundaries. It does not discriminate. And David, where you are and its City Mayor contracted it and
has sadly succumbed to it.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right just a short time ago announcing that Joe Berg's Mayor has died from COVID complications. And
with every well-known person that has succumbed to this disease, of course, there are people, ordinary people that are succumbing as well, family
members, loved ones, work colleagues.
I'm speaking to so many people I know and others just reaching out to me just about the deadly toll of this third wave and that Delta virus is
ripping through this region, not just South Africa the epicenter is right where I'm sitting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE (voice over): They hoped it would be better hoped that COVID-19 had done its worst but 16 months in and Mohammed Patel and his paramedic
team are in a new, more dangerous fight.
MCKENZIE (on camera): What has the Delta variant done to COVID-19 here?
MOHAMMED PATEL, PARAMEDIC: It has caused a whole lot of chaos. There are a whole lot of patients that are suffering. Their oxygen levels are dropping
MCKENZIE (voice over): South African scientists tracking Delta. So what dominate new infections in just weeks? Patel takes us into a home south of
PATEL: Hello, good morning.
MCKENZIE (voice over): Where Delta is tearing through families ripping through the country's largely unvaccinated population. Less than 1 percent
of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. The 67-year-old patient has critically low oxygen levels.
PATEL: These patients that are suffering at home because they aren't able to get hospital beds. There are no spaces in hospital there's no
ventilators available - they - it's completely chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third wave has really been far more devastating, far more overwhelming.
MCKENZIE (voice over): For months now CNN has requested access to hospitals, but we were denied. So the true impact of this brutal Delta wave
has been largely hidden from view. But CNN obtained this disturbing video from the emergency room at a Johannesburg hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patients are waiting - they are on stretchers they in cubicles. Doctors are overwhelmed. Nurses are overwhelmed.
MCKENZIE (on camera): Not enough beds and what does that result in in these waiting areas of the hospital?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's chaos.
MCKENZIE (voice over): The senior doctor wanted to speak out, reveal what they call warzone like conditions. We agreed to hide their identity because
they were afraid of reprisals from the government. In recent days they said the bodies couldn't be wrapped fast enough to make space for the sick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all patients who are dying while they are waiting to be seen while they are waiting to go to the ward because the
resources are just being overwhelmed by the onslaught of patients.
MCKENZIE (on camera): And how does that make you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This sense of helplessness, but then also almost a blunting - desensitization that we're doing everything we can, but it's
still not enough.
MCKENZIE (voice over): Patel's team is often diverted from hospitals with critically ill patients; they search for hours to find a bed. So a charity
called "Gift of the givers" constructed this 20 bed field clinic staffed with volunteer doctors and nurses in less than five days. Every single bed
could give a sick patient the chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Now, of course, some patients say doctors do arrive at hospitals too sick to help even if there was a lot of space, and we've seen this
across the world. We spoke to the Department of Health, here and put the questions to them why patients are dying.
They responded by sending us presentation showing their head try to increase the hospital beds before this wave. I think it's also important to
note that public health officials are saying vaccinations are the best way to get out of the cycle of COVID-19 waves driven by these variants Lynda.
And South Africa started slowly and late but now in the last few days, it is ramping up considerably. So there is some hope there that this might be
the worst of it. But they thought that before Lynda.
KINKADE: Yes, they certainly did. Our David McKenzie for us on what is proven to be a very difficult situation right now in South Africa, and of
course, the rest of the continent. Thanks very much.
Well, my next guest here to talk about the UK's controversial plan to drop pandemic restrictions, which a growing number of scientists say is a
dangerous move. Richard Horton is the Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Journal, "The Lancet", and he joins us now from London. Good to have you
RICHARD HORTON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE LANCET: Hello, good to be with you.
KINKADE: So a dangerous and unethical experiment on the people of UK that's how it's being described by one doctor in this report that you're part of,
how would you describe it?
HORTON: Well, I think that's actually two kinds of knowledge and experiments and experiments are where you genuinely don't know what's going
to happen. And you're testing a hypothesis, but we know exactly what's going to happen by lifting the restrictions on July the 19th.
We're already in an uncontrolled growth of the Delta variant, we will see increased hospitalizations which we're currently seeing, and we are
creating the conditions for the emergence of new variants.
We already have "Lambda" that's been identified in Latin America that is spreading slowly around the world. And, of course, we mustn't forget the
danger of long COVID, approximately one in 10 people who get infected with SARS, COVID II go on to have symptoms after three months, and we are
creating an epidemic of long COVID.
So it's vital that we still while we're driving up vaccination rates, but we still suppress transmission of the virus, and it's completely reckless
to lift mandates on July the 19th.
KINKADE: And that is one key point because 4000 or so doctors and scientists condemning the British plan to reopen in 10 days-time make that
point that even though cases arising and hospitalizations and the death toll are not rising at this point, at that same rate, there are those long
term effects and those sorts of concerns.
And also concerns about what sort of impact it might have on the economy, right for those that are ill, but not necessarily hospitalized.
HORTON: Yes, I mean, we have rightly over the past 15 months or so focused on deaths. But now in the younger age population, the population under 14,
many of whom have caused a key for economic growth. But that group long COVID is a much bigger threat than death.
And if you've got something like 10 percent of those who get infected, developing long COVID symptoms, you've got a problem. We are estimating
that by August, we will probably have 100,000 infections every day if we release on July the 19th.
If we have 100,000 infections a day that's 10,000 people who will develop long COVID every single day throughout the summer. So we are creating a
huge epidemic of sickness, which will then translate into further burdens on the National Health Service, further burdens on the economy. So this is
where the logic is impossible to understand.
KINKADE: The UK of course, has been widely praised for its vaccination rate. But as we are discussing cases are rising exponentially. I'm
wondering why the government is ignoring scientific advice and whether we could potentially say some sort of reversal.
HORTON: Well, let's be clear the answer here is indeed vaccination. But right now because of the Delta variant being so much more transmissible,
the virus is outpacing vaccination. So we need to get vaccination rates in the United Kingdom, it's around 51 percent of the population has double
vaccinated, we need to get vaccination rates well above 70 or 75 percent to rarely suppressed immunity transmission.
We've done a phenomenal job, just like you've done a phenomenal job in the United States, you are at 48 percent. But we need to go that extra step
further, before we start to open up our society. We're almost there. But if we give up now we really risk causing a self-inflicted wound.
KINKADE: And is that right feasible? What are you seeing in the UK? What is the uptake of vaccines right now because here in the U.S., there is
HORTON: Yes, we have hesitancy too not so much in the older age groups, but in the younger age groups. And I can understand the reason for that,
because they're thinking that since they're not at risk of death, as the older people are, perhaps they don't need to take the vaccine.
But as I said, I think we need to focus on the risk of long COVID. And also, and this, again, is entirely rational. If you - if the government is
saying, well, let's open up society on July the 19th, then people not unreasonably think well, I don't have a problem.
Why do I need to get vaccinated if the government saying everything's going to be fine, but that's not right? That shouldn't be the message, the
message should be go out there, get the vaccine, for the vast, vast majority of people is perfectly safe, it will protect you it will protect
those around you. And it's the only way to defeat this pandemic.
KINKADE: And just quickly talk to us about the timing of this opening up of restrictions given that obviously, this is just 10 days away but in the
lead up to that you've got the Euro 2020 final this weekend, and no doubt there will be a lot of celebrations in England.
HORTON: Well, I'll be there cheering on England on Sunday night for sure. But I will be doing it from the comfort of my apartments. I will not be in
Wembley because 60,000 people largely not wearing masks in Wembley Arena could very well turned out to be a super spreader event.
And I'm afraid that's also a great concern. And look at the lesson from Tokyo. The Tokyo Olympic authorities have made the right decision. But the
city is in an emergency and they have decided not to have spectators at events in Tokyo. That is a prudent approach. It's a cautious approach. And
it's an approach that shows an understanding of the science of this devastating virus.
KINKADE: Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of "The Lancet" good to get your perspective there. We hope to speak to you again soon. Thanks.
HORTON: Thank you.
KINKADE: Well, still ahead on "Connect the World" it is the beginning of the end for the war in Afghanistan, while the Taliban are claiming to
control most of the country. U.S. President says it's time for Afghanistan to step up and take care.
Plus, CNN on the scene of an apparent shootout tied to the assassination of Haiti's President. We're going to go live to Porter Prince's authority
search for the masterminds of the killing. And later, massive World Cup stadiums rising from the desert but they're not being built without
controversy. Our Becky Anderson looks at allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar.
KINKADE: Welcome back. Richard Branson is getting ready to blast off the Virgin Galactic Founder is preparing for a voyage to the edge of space on
Sunday. That's a full nine days before fellow billionaire and space rival Jeff Bezos plans to take the same journey. Well, if all goes as scheduled
the trip will launch Branson not just in the space but into the record books.
I want to go down to New Mexico to the launch site CNN's Rachel Crane is there excitement building. No doubt. This is set to take place on Sunday
and I have heard Richard Branson say his wife is nervous. But you have spoken to him. How's he feeling?
RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION & SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lynda. You know, I have to say nobody is more excited about this spaceflight that
Richard Branson himself. You know, outsiders have pegged this as a new space race between Bezos and Branson.
Branson now maintaining that he does not see this as a race that the accelerated timeline for this spaceflight was the result of an updated FAA
license allowing Virgin Galactic to fly spaceflight participants, coupled with the fact that the company had what they said was a flawless test
flight just a few weeks ago.
So Branson, you know is taking this flight in just a few days, I spoke to him about his excitement, take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRANE (on camera): OK. Richard, you are finally going to space in a matter of days. Tell me how do you feel?
RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GALACTIC: Well, I've managed to avoid getting excited for 17 years since we started building spaceships and
motherships and spaceports and all these things, and you had to get through the test programs.
And then yesterday, I finally got the call from our chief engineer saying that every single box is being ticked on the safety aspect and that I was -
what I like to go to space. And I hit - I hit the roof. I was so excited. So and obviously, yes, never been more excited in my life and the wonderful
team are coming up with me are equally set.
CRANE (on camera): You talk about excitement, but tell me are you nervous at all?
BRANSON: I'm not nervous, I'm obviously always, always nervous of letting the rest of the team down. I'm going up, you know, as soon as someone there
to test the customer experience, and I'm just going to enjoy every single minute of it.
It's not - something that you know, I think millions and millions of people out there would want to take my seat and, and I'm going to enjoy every
second from the beginning to the end. And it's so excited that this is the start for thousands of people who can become astronauts in future years and
yes, looking forward to seeing a lot of those people off in future years to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CRANE: Now Lynda, the astronauts experience begins before spaceflight begins with the training and that's what Branson has been doing here at
Spaceport America. The last few days going through the training that future astronauts the nearly 600 of them that have already plopped down $200,000
for a seat on this system.
He's going through the paces the training that they will eventually go through once the company serves commercial operations at the beginning of
2020. Before that, they say they have two additional space flights, test flights following this flight before they begin those commercial
Today is a down day for Branson. He's spending the day with his friends and family who have come in town to witness this space flight which is
scheduled to take off Sunday morning and will be live streamed for us all to see.
And Lynda I also want to point out on the point of this being a race between Bezos and Branson as I said the outsiders have sort of pegged it as
such. Branson did invite Bezos to the space flight here on Sunday remains to be seen if Bezos will be attending is probably pretty busy preparing for
his own spaceflight, which is scheduled for July 20th Lynda.
KINKADE: I mean whether he is there or not no doubt he will be watching this very closely as we all will. I'm looking forward to it myself Rachel
Crane good to have you with us talk to you soon.
KINKADE: Well, the Mayor of Surfside Florida says they are praying for a miracle but authorities no longer think they might find anyone's still
alive under the rubble of that collapsed condo. They're now determined to bring closure for families.
Surfside's Mayor says he spent time with the team identifying victims and says they're told they're working around the clock to make that happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA MAYOR: It was moving today to hear a representative from the fire department tell the families at the family
meeting this afternoon that the Miami-Dade Fire Department will not stop working until they've gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every
single one of the family's missing loved ones. It's what we've said all along. And they've stuck to their commitment, and I'm very, very thankful
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, five more victims were identified Thursday of the 64 victims who've been found 40 have now been identified with 39 next of kin notified.
And authorities say they're sampling concrete from the Chaplin Towers North the collapsed condo sister tower for potential salt content that could
compromise the building.
Well, CNN has obtained a document that shows how badly the Surfside Condo needed repairs and how little money there was to do it? Leyla Santiago has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A new report an independent review of Champlain Tower South's budget. The review done just over a year
before the building collapse wasn't a good one. The 99 page report underscores the building's anemic financial reserves combined with the need
for structural repairs.
The review included a diligent visual inspection of the building incorporated with an engineering analysis done prior to the reserve report.
It shows that several components of the building had zero years of remaining useful life, including the entrance deck and garage, where some
experts have said concrete spalling may have contributed to the fatal collapse news like this for the families whose loved ones haven't been
recovered not easy to hear.
PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER STILL UNACCOUNTED FOR: I don't understand how that happens with a building that collects so much
maintenance fees every single year over 40 years. How does that even happen?
SANTIAGO (voice over): Also significantly detailed in the report was the fact that the facade and balconies of the building had concrete
deterioration and if left untreated, small problems can develop into major issues over a relatively short amount of time.
ROBERT NORDLUND, FOUNDER AND CEO OF ASSOCIATION RESERVES: The amount of deterioration that we saw at Champlain Tower South made me wonder how much
of that was visible 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago?
SANTIAGO (voice over): Robert Nordlund, the CEO of Association Reserves, which prepared the budget report for the Condo Association says a gap in
funds is not unheard of.
NORDLUND: About three out of 10 associations across the country are in a weak financial state with respect to reserves.
SANTIAGO (voice over): The Champlain Tower South Association was projected to have a little over $706,000 in its reserves as of January 2021 according
to the report, while Association Reserves recommends it stockpile nearly $10.3 million to account for necessary repairs.
Just 6.9 percent of the funds it should have had. Nordlund says that he believed his company's report was a wakeup call for the condo board
sparring the assessment residents were levied in April of this year, totaling $15 million.
RODRIGUEZ: My mom was very strong willed as we talked about and she would be yelling at the top of her lungs to make sure that anybody that was
responsible for this is held accountable.
SANTIAGO (voice over): A spokesperson for the Champlain Tower South Condo Association did not provide comment about the budget report. Attorney Peter
Sachs specializes in condominium law in Florida.
PETER SACHS, ATTORNEY: Buildings need to be maintained on a regular basis. They need to be checked. They need to be fixed. They need to be brought up
to standard and that's best done over the course of time in a planned out manner with funds on hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: And records show that the association struggled to get loans it was denied by two lenders. Now, they cited that the association was
considered high risk at least in part, because of the low funds in the reserves. They eventually did secure a $12 million loan for repairs. But
that didn't come without those complications, at least in part due to the reserves. Leyla Santiago, CNN, Surfside Florida.
KINKADE: You're watching "Connect the World" live from CNN Atlanta. Still ahead, police show more than a dozen suspects who they say were part of a
plot to kill Haiti's President the latest on the search for other suspects who may have planned the assassination.
KINKADE: We're turning now to the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban say they've captured two strategic border crossings, including a key gateway
into Iran. It comes as the group claims to control 85 percent of the country. The border crossing with Iran is crucial for the Afghan economy.
The World Bank says about 15 percent of Afghanistan's imports through the - enter through the Iranian border. Well, U.S. President Joe Biden said this
was expected and that it's now time for the Afghan government to control its fate. He announced that U.S. forces will pull out of the country by the
end of August.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As I said in April, the United States did what we want to do in Afghanistan to get the terrorists
who attacked us on 9/11 and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base,
which attacks could be continued against the United States.
We achieved those objectives. That's why we went. We did not go to Afghanistan to nation bill. And it's the right and the responsibility of
Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: We're joining us live now with perspective is Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria Ryan Crockett, good to
have you with us Ambassador.
RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, PAKISTAN AND SYRIA: Thank you, Lynda, good to be here.
KINKADE: So in defending his decision to leave Afghanistan, U.S. President Biden said the Afghan people alone should decide their future. What's your
CROCKER: Well, it was an unfortunate statement, following a very unfortunate policy decision to pull all the way out. We've been a factor in
Afghanistan, obviously, for 20 years. And for the president to say that its mission accomplished, is just so far from the truth it's hard to
articulate, that we have ensured that no terrorist group and work out of Afghanistan in the future to attack the homeland.
But we've just given the field to those forces and Taliban back and they will be bringing Al Qaeda with, though, I just cannot quite calculate the
logic behind his decision to pull out and his justification.
KINKADE: And what do you make of the Taliban claim? You know, we heard from officials from the Taliban in Moscow, saying that they now control 85
percent of territory in Afghanistan, which seems an incredible amount of territory. Do you believe that claim?
CROCKER: Well, a percentage of territory held in Afghanistan is a parlor game, we've played it, the Taliban are playing it now. I would not be too
focused on 85 percent or anything else; a lot of it is desert. I think the real factor to look at here is, can they control hold and control a
provincial capital? So far, that has not happened. But I'm afraid it will.
KINKADE: And of course, when you listen to the numbers, the U.S. President says, looking at the number of troops that Afghanistan has, they've got
300,000 versus about 70,000 Taliban fighters. How does that play out?
And what do you make of those numbers in U.S. President Biden's defense saying that Afghanistan, have the military away with all taken on the
CROCKER: Again, we've put a lot of effort into the Afghan National Security Forces and they've paid with their own lives, they've been tremendous
spiders in a tough war. What the president has done though, is to take us off field.
Much of the Afghan ground doctrine involves the Air Force in the Air Force's ability to sustain operations forward. Well, the Air Force is going
out of business in Afghanistan, because we're pulling all our contractors out.
In general, what has happened, I think, is that the President has in one stroke, really given the telephone victory he has created here and
uncertainty on the part of the Afghan government and security forces about our staying guard.
So it is a time of confusion and whatever the numbers are, the Taliban will benefit from that. And we have given them agency, it's not over to the
Afghan government, it's over to the Taliban.
KINKADE: At some stage surely though, the U.S. had to leave. This has been 20 years over 2 trillion U.S. dollars that's taxpayer dollars spent in
Afghanistan, battling this war.
And of course, there's the human toll the lives lost both military members in the U.S. and NATO military members and of course, civilians in
Afghanistan. At what point should the U.S. leave, if not now?
CROCKER: We shouldn't be talking about victory or winning. What we should be talking about is the reason that brought us to Afghanistan in the first
place. It wasn't nation building. It was to prevent Al Qaida or anything like Hokkaido from having a safe staging area, to attack us in the United
States. That is what this is about.
And I don't think any of us who've served there ever really lost track of that. It's pretty clear. We have had casualties we, I saw too many of them
when I was there as Ambassador on 2011, 2012. The total so far over 20 years, a little less than 1900, that's a terrible number.
But compare it to how many lives were lost in the Twin Towers in one awful morning, 3000. So look, we were succeeding, we were succeeding with a
minimum force down from 100,000 to less than 5000 now.
And yet things still held together, so, we were paying a very small premium on a very big insurance contract. And the president has just given that
KINKADE: I'm wondering when you talk about we were exceeding if you can elaborate on that, because how is it that the Taliban can take over this
amount of territory? And as you say, in others fear could potentially overthrow the Afghan government.
If America had made such great progress in Afghanistan during the last 20 years, how is it that in the in the last few months since the U.S. began,
its withdrawal that all of a sudden, the Taliban has so much territory and seem to be in a very good position?
CROCKER: Look at whether the number of troops was 100,000 or whether it was a little under 5000. What we were doing was with a curse, the Afghan
partners who've been carrying this by in recent years, not us, preventing Al Qaeda from coming back into Afghanistan and finding safe areas where you
could stage further that.
That's how I would define success. It's a problem to be managed and controlled. We're not going to get outright victory. I don't even know what
that means in Afghan context.
CROCKER: But what we can do, what we could do, what we were doing in partnership with the Afghan government is ensuring America's national
security by denying a foothold again in Afghanistan 405. The Taliban is coming back; Al Qaeda will come back within.
KINKADE: Right. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, good to get your perspective. We will see how this plays out no doubt and continue that discussion. Thank
CROCKER: Thank you.
KINKADE: Well, there is new video today at the aftermath of the assassination of the Haitian President police securing a burned out vehicle
allegedly used in the plot to kill Jovenel Moise. The Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. says a professional hit squad carried out the attack at the
Haitian police raided 17 suspects in front of TV cameras Thursday. The police chief says 28 suspects were involved in the plot. All but two of
them are Colombian nationals, the others are Haitian American.
We are watching "Connect the World" 500 days and counting to the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, but in that conservative country will all fans really be
welcome. Becky Anderson talks to the top officials responsible for delivering the 2022 World Cup.
KINKADE: Welcome back. Right now there are exactly 500 days and counting until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. With exclusive access, my colleague
Becky Anderson, who I'm sitting in for today got a look at how it's all, coming together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.
BECKY ANDERSON, MANAGING EDITOR AND ANCHOR, CONNECT THE WORLD (voice over): And it's been nonstop ever since. In less than a year and a half the eyes
of the world will be on this tiny Gulf nation. As it throws open its doors as the first ever Arab country to host a World Cup.
Over the years I've watched Qatar become a country transformed, pumping billions of dollars into infrastructure mega projects, including an
architect's wonderland of futuristic stadiums, all within an hour's drive of each other. But the limelight of a successful bid has also been a
spotlight of scrutiny.
Qatar has been dogged by allegations that migrant laborers working on these ambitious projects have been subjected to labor exploitation and human
Hassan Al Thawadi is the man in charge of delivering footballs' next global showpiece. And the legacy this tournament promised in terms of its worker
welfare, we last met here in 2017. And recently I went back to get an exclusive look at the progress.
ANDERSON (on camera): Last time you and I were here we were in high vies jacket. This was a building site four years on this Al Bayt Stadium.
HASSAN AL THAWADI, SECRETARY GENERAL, SUPREME COMMITTEE FOR DELIVERY AND LEGACY: Yes, it is.
ANDERSON (on camera): This is remarkable. Any football fan is going to fill the head standing off in their arms when they walk into here.
THAWADI: It definitely likes that reaction. There's no doubt about that.
ANDERSON (on camera): This is amazing. And it's 42 degrees Celsius outside me checked the temperature when I came in.
ANDERSON (on camera): It's about what I would say 20?
THAWADI: 2021, I think instead of 2021.
ANDERSON (on camera): 2021 that is because that was an innovation that you promised.
THAWADI: Yes, we did. We promised it 2009, 2010 during the bid.
ANDERSON (on camera): Cooling technologies.
THAWADI: Absolutely, yes. Cool stadiums and we've actually utilized this in other facilities as well.
ANDERSON (on camera): You promised the World Cup like no other. At least in terms of the stadia you've delivered.
THAWADI: We're in the process of delivering even more.
ANDERSON (on camera): Let's go talk.
ANDERSON (on camera): We all 500 days out. We meet is Qatar slowly begins to lift its COVID restrictions. It's been a brutal year, everywhere. How
has the pandemic affected the pace of construction?
THAWADI: Initially, during the early days of the pandemic, our numbers might have been high but the main priority at the time was first and
foremost ensuring the health and safety of everybody in the state of Qatar.
But at the same time there was a balance of ensuring that the sense of normalcy also continued. Progress continued. I'd like to say we're give or
take around 90 percent, between 90 to 95 percent completion. I mean most of the transportation infrastructure is completed.
The metro system is up in running; four stadiums have been finished and inaugurated. The fifth is very close to final completion waiting
inauguration. We have three other stadiums in the pipeline, again at varying stages of completion. But by the end of this year or early next
year at the latest will be all the stadiums will be ready.
ANDERSON (on camera): COVID is likely still to be a reality in November of 2022. Are you confident that this World Cup will go ahead?
THAWADI: If we're looking at you know what the next few months and years will look like, it's difficult to predict it with 100 percent certainty.
I'm confident I'm confident that by 2022 this will be an opportunity to bring people together to bring the world together.
ANDERSON (on camera): From state of the art sustainable stadiums like the Al Bayt to green transport solutions, Qatar is on track. The physical
infrastructure is though just part of the story.
From the outset Hassan, you said that workers welfare was of critical importance to your success to "it has the potential to create a
transformative and truly global human and social legacy". How much progress has been made Hassan?
THAWADI: Quite significant progress. If we look at the actions that the government has taken so far, laws implemented and being applied as well.
The follow system has been dismantled.
ANDERSON (on camera): That's the sponsorship that a sponsorship system--
ANDERSON (on camera): That has been dismantled.
THAWADI: Yes. Both in terms of allowing for workers to change employers and at the same time also there was the exit permit system.
ANDERSON (on camera): They couldn't leave without permission.
THAWADI: They couldn't leave without permission that has been dismantled as well. The first of its kind in the region, a non-discriminatory minimum
wage system has been applied.
ANDERSON (voice over): Amnesty International says and I quote here, "Qatar has introduced important reforms. Yet it says the weak implementation and
enforcement of these reforms has left thousands of workers at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who have been allowed to commit abuses with impunity
today, despite improvements to the legal framework, progress on the ground remains slow".
The ILO have said and I "We've seen significant progress in the dismantling of the Kafala system the introduction of a minimum wage and measures to
protect safety and health at work. But the government of Qatar and the ILO are fully aware that there is still more work to be done".
THAWADI: First and foremost, nobody denies that more work needs to be done. We have partnered up with the ILO, we've partnered up with BWI, one of the
biggest trade unions in the world as well. We have delivered on those promises. Now the question is, is that enough, of course not?
But I don't think any nation in the world today can make a claim that they have the perfect system. There is no doubt about that. The legislation that
has come is a benchmark and it is you know we are pioneers when it comes to worker welfare reforms in the region.
ANDERSON (voice over): There is little doubt that Qatar has made significant progress on workers welfare, but it's been slow. And there are
lingering concerns of a disconnect between legislation and its implementation and enforcement.
ANDERSON (on camera): This enforcement issue, surely you will concede that it is absolutely critical that perpetrators of abuse and exploitation be
held to account what's being done to ensure that that's the case.
THAWADI: As far as I'm aware and following closely what the state has done, people who have abused the law are punished.
ANDERSON (voice over): To add to the pressure the British newspaper, The Guardian recently leveled a startling accusation that more than six and a
half 1000 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it won the rights to host the World Cup.
The vast majority of those workers, the authors of the report say have been involved in low wage, dangerous and extremely difficult laboring work,
often in extreme heat.
THAWADI: The headline that came out of The Guardian was inherently misleading.
ANDERSON (on camera): How?
THAWADI: 6500 workers did not die at World Cup stadiums. If we're looking at specifically World Cup stadiums, we have had, unfortunately, three work
related deaths and 35 none work with this.
ANDERSON (on camera): You're not arguing that six and a half 1000 migrant workers didn't die here over the last 10 years.
THAWADI: What I'm saying is the number 6500 it is not limited to workers themselves. It includes people from all different walks of life, any death,
whether it's a natural death or as a result of an accident is a tragedy. So you know that's very important to highlight.
But the number itself if you break it down with the total population over a period of 10 years, it comes in within the normal rate normal mortality
ANDERSON (voice over): In a statement, FIFA said with the very stringent health and safety measures on site, the frequency of accidents on FIFA
World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world.
THAWADI: The reports are out there and they've been out there for a number of years. So these reports also address the health and safety issues. They
address the mortality rate issues as well and the causes of some of these issues.
And they're open they're open on our website. Everybody's welcome to look at them and review them and raise questions about them.
ANDERSON (voice over): Questions have been raised. Superstar teams like Germany, the Netherlands and Norway splashed protests across their shirts
during World Cup qualifying matches. They want to see workers' rights fully protected before the World Cup starts. And that's led to whispers of a
ANDERSON (on camera): Do you worry about a boycott of some of these big national teams? And it will be damaging for the World Cup ---.
THAWADI: I'm not - it's safe to say I'm not concerned about a boycott for one reason, because we are reaching out.
ANDERSON (on camera): How will Qatar respond if players or fans protest?
THAWADI: I'm hopeful that by then people would be educated more about public, the powerful impact that sport has in bringing people together
should never be underestimated. And more importantly, I think also people understand the transformative power this tournament has had not only in
Qatar, but in the region as well.
ANDERSON (voice over): That's the view from the field as it were. But Hassan isn't doing this alone. Remember the moment cattle won the bid.
Well, the man by Hassan's inside there is the tournament's now Chief Executive, Nasser Al Khater.
NASSER AL KHATER, QATAR 2022 CEO: Yes, I'm excited about working with him.
ANDERSON (voice over): His job to get everyone and everything into place comes game time, running the entire operational setup. I caught up with him
at the tournament's headquarters in Doha. And I began by picking up with NASA, where I left off with Hassan.
KHATER: Qatar has had a rough ride since winning the rights to host the World Cup ever since 2011. But yes, it's getting more brutal. There are a
lot of preparations that still need to take place. And then there are always the criticisms that take place with any World Cup.
I'm not going to say this is unique to Qatar, but I think what is unique to Qatar is just the ferociousness of the criticism. It's getting better or
we're getting thicker skin, I'm not sure. Regardless, we will be ready. And it will definitely be a great World Cup.
ANDERSON (on camera): Qatar has promised that this will be a World Cup like no other. So tell me sir, tell me about the plans. What are fans going to
get when they get here?
KHATER: One of the biggest positives of this World Cup is that it is a compact World Cup. That means all fans of different nations will be
congregating in one city, other World Cups fans have to disperse to many cities around the country, you're going to have fans from 32 countries in a
country the size of Qatar, that doesn't come without its challenges.
But I think what it will give you is really the feeling of, for lack of better words football fiesta, we're focusing a lot on the center of Doha to
be really the hub of where fans are going to congregate. And what we can promise is that fans are going to have a really unique and enjoyable time.
ANDERSON (voice over): As they jet in those fans will be greeted by a glistening --- piper energetic skyline. One of the most modern in the
world, companies for jazz of Doha, Qatar is still at its core, a very traditional place.
It's against the law to be gay or lesbian here and so is being drunk in public. In looking to open up, the tournament will build fan zones in Doha
where people can taste the atmosphere and a drink. But like at the last tournament in Russia, it's not always a quiet drink.
ANDERSON (on camera): So not all football fans drink alcohol, but many of them do. What is the plan?
KHATER: We are a conservative and modest country. Alcohol is not part of our culture, we are hospitable. And we will make sure that people will
enjoy this World Cup. There will be designated areas that will serve alcohol and we will make sure that you know fans wouldn't be able to get it
during the tournament.
ANDERSON (on camera): What will you do with regard any trouble that fans cause? What are your security and policing plans?
KHATER: So the government works hand in hand with many police organizations and security organizations around the world and especially from countries
that tend to have fans that are a little bit more passionate about football. I mean, I've been to the last three. And we found that you know
fans are quite respectful of the countries that they're in.
ANDERSON (on camera): There are concerns about fans who may want to travel to Qatar who are homosexual that is illegal here. Again, what's your
KHATER: We've always said this; this World Cup is open for everybody. Qatar is a welcoming country and we are not going to stop anybody from any
country on basis of race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.
ANDERSON (voice over): And with its arms open, Qatar is expecting to welcome one and a half million fans. That's more than half the size of its
entire population. While football is extremely popular amid the pandemic and after a year's long blockade from its neighbors, it's a lot to take in.
ANDERSON (on camera): How would you describe how the nation feels at present big event like this can be quite overwhelming when you consider
where we are all at?
KHATER: So we understand people are apprehensive, we understand that people will never know what kind of spikes with this really unusual virus that's
created a pandemic with mutations and yes, we need to be prepared for any eventuality.
But then there's also this optimism that by the time the World Cup comes around, that the world would have put this behind them and that this will
be something of the past.
ANDERSON (voice over): It's not the past this place is concentrating on, it's the future. And one big date in particular November the 21st 2022,
when the first match will kick off here at the Al Bayt Stadium. Until then, there is still a lot to do.
The organizers accept that progress still needs to be made to deliver a better life for its legions of migrant workers. The event is without a
doubt, a significant catalyst for change. But there is still work to be done on delivering on Qatar's own promise of making the World Cup a lasting
legacy for everyone here. Becky Anderson, CNN, Qatar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: We have much more on this on our website and right from Becky and her producers in sci-fi. It includes an interview with Katmandu based human
rights lawyer concerned about the plight of Nepalese workers in Qatar.
He says most of these workers come from poverty and they're not well educated, making them easy targets for exploitation. But he says you can't
lay all the blame at Qatar's feet.
Thanks so much for joining us wherever you're watching in the world. I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. "One World" with Eleni Giokos is