Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

Kazakhstan President Orders Police To Open Fire To Protesters; NATO Meets On Russia Troop Buildup Along Ukraine Border; Australian Government Denies Novak Djokovic Is Being Held Captive; Italy Extends COVID Vaccine Mandate To Everyone 50 Above; WHO Adviser Says Pandemic Could End This Year With Vaccine Equity; Legendary Actor Sidney Poitier Dies At Age 94. Aired 10-10:45a ET

Aired January 07, 2022 - 10:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Open fire to kill. A chilling order from the Kazakh president who calls people criminals for protesting. The

dramatic situation in Kazakhstan and the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine's border as the head of NATO worried. We'll talk about that.

And Novak Djokovic thanks his fans from his Australian quarantine hotel. He is still waiting to find out how the visa row will Australia will end.

Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We're coming to you live from London. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

The unrest in Kazakhstan is taking a very ominous turn as security forces fan out following this week's violent protest. I want you to listen to what

the president of the country said today.


KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHZTANI PRESIDENT (through translator): I gave the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to open fire, to kill

without warning. Abroad, there are appeals to the parties to negotiate for a peaceful solution of problems. What nonsense. What kind of negotiations

can there be with criminals, with murderers? We have to deal with armed and trained bandits both local and foreign. Mainly with bandits and terrorists.

Therefore they need to be destroyed. And this will be done shortly.


GORANI: They need to be destroyed. Open fire to kill without warning. Kazakhstan's Interior minister says 26, quote, "criminals" have been killed

in the unrest. Kazakh forces are being helped by members of a regional security bloc led by Russia. Kazakhstan is of course a former Soviet

republic and Russian ally. And Western countries are calling for restrain but that may be falling on deaf ears.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us now with the very latest.

The President Tokayev very much relying on Putin here to help quell this unrest.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and as you mentioned, Hala, look, all it seems most of the outside forces, outside countries are calling for

restraint, calling for de-escalation. Even the Taliban in Afghanistan is calling for peace in Kazakhstan right now.

The president obviously had very different ideas given the clip that you just played there saying that look, the orders are shoot to kill. This is

some pretty scary language. And the President Tokayev had a choice early on. To work with the protesters, try to address their demands, and there

were certainly signs that he was willing to do that. But those protests continued and now he has reached for the lever of authoritarianism and to

really crack down on this dissent.

And he is certainly taking advantage of the fact, Hala, that while the vast majority of protesters it seems had peaceful intentions and legitimate

concerns, there was obviously a very violent portion of them that went after government institutions, set fires and used violence. And the

president claims that they are continuing to do that under the direction or under the influence of foreign actors.

So now he is also calling in his own foreign actors in the form of that Russian military alliance, with other ex-Soviet countries. Their sort of

answer to NATO in way. This is the very first time that that military alliance has actually been used and has actually acted as a collective

right now. And officially, the CSTO, that's the name of the alliance, and the Russians are saying that they're going to act with a relatively light


A, their time in Kazakhstan will be relative short, they say. Only as long as necessary. And also they're there to generally to keep the peace and to

defend government institutions. It seems like at least through official statements they have no plans to be part of any sort of crackdown on


Also when you look at the numbers, 3600 troops in total, many have already started arriving in the country, that's not a whole lot. And so on paper,

given the other regional things to consider here, it doesn't really detract all that much from what Vladmir Putin is doing in Ukraine and the Russian

troop buildup. This is probably an unwanted headache for him.

But from the U.S. perspective they are very concerned about human rights violations and as the -- as Ned Price, the spokesperson for the U.S.

secretary of State, said they are watching closely for any actions that may lay the predicate for the seizure of Kazakh institutions. In other words,

the U.S., from their perspective, they think that this is great chance for Russia to really cement Kazakhstan as part of their influence.


And we should make no mistake here. This is not a battle of East versus West. Yes, the Americans certainly have some economic interests and some

companies do business there especially in the oil sector, but Kazakhstan is very much in the Russian sphere of influence. And so if there's any

opportunity here for Vladimir Putin at all, Hala, it's to further cement that influence.

GORANI: Sure. I mean, Kazakhstan is a gigantic country when you look it up. It's the size of Western Europe.

Nic Robertson, our senior diplomatic editor joins us now. They have 3 percent of world oil reserves. There's a lot of money to be made and gas. A

lot of money to be made in Kazakhstan. Putin doesn't want to let Kazakhstan fall to any protesters, anti-government protesters. And he's going to help

the authoritarian regime there keeps its hold on power. Right, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the country has 40 percent of the world's uranium reserves and it has Russia's space station.

So, you know, what happens in Kazakhstan is of keen import to the Russian president. But it's also, you know, by the very nature of its geography,

watched closely and seen as an important part of the sort of near countries for China as well.

And, you know, there will be views in China that will be unsettled if Russia was to take a firmer -- ultimately take a firmer control and guiding

influence on what happens there. That perhaps would not sit so easily with Beijing, who sees Kazakhstan as very close to its sphere of influence as

well. So there's a lot to play out here.

The Russian military using 60 -- 70, rather, transport aircraft to ferry in this large number of forces. And their rules of contact allow them to shoot

at armed groups if they see armed groups. And I think we all understand, you know, a definition of an armed group, how many people in the group,

what sort of weapons, you know, what sort of distance can they fire at. And they will be involved in to a degree bringing unruly crowds, if they exist,

under control.

So there is also room here for Russia to slip up in its relations with the people of Kazakhstan as well. And that would be a tension in the

relationship between the two countries and a footing that President Putin wouldn't want to get on. So, you know, there's a lot at stake for President

Putin and a lot to occupy his mind.

But as Scott was rightly saying, you know, he's got a lot going on at the other end of Russia as well, with Ukraine and tensions with the U.S. and

NATO, which are playing out right.

GORANI: Sure. And let's talk about NATO because blaming outside forces and terrorists, it's right out of the authoritarian playbook that we've seen in

many other parts of the world, not just in Europe. But what is NATO hoping to achieve? And what are their options, basically?

ROBERTSON: I think their options, it appears, is to remain united and we've just heard from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg opening that

session for the foreign ministers in the last few minutes or so talking about precisely that, about keeping the unit of NATO, welcoming Russia,

sitting down the NATO-Russia talks saying that that was a positive step forward, positive that Russia will talk with the United States bilaterally,

and also with the OSCE.

But Russia has chosen to have the conversations in this format. The United States first, then NATO and then the OSCE. It has chosen to give the United

States one set of security proposal demands and another set to NATO. And there's certainly the concerned NATO that Russia will try to deliver

slightly different requests and messages to the United States as it does to NATO. We know that German and French representatives have had meetings with

Russian officials today.

We know that the Europeans are also concerned, the E.U., about not having a full foot at the table of these talks. So the net effect potentially for

Russia to achieve here is to sow and create division between the United States and other NATO partners and among the European-NATO members because

there were differences of opinion about how to handle security in Europe. So NATO is really, and this is what the secretary-general was saying today,

very clearly trying to maintain that united position.

So by having this emergency session with foreign ministers today tries to ensure everyone is engaged, everyone gets to say their piece, everyone gets

to have their concern whether it's Poland or Lithuania who feel that they are closer to the threat of Russia than let's say perhaps Spain is, for

example, or Italy. Every one's view gets heard.


GORANI: Nic Robertson, thanks very much in Moscow. Scott McLean in London.

Novak Djokovic is making his first public comments since landing in Australia. The world number one tennis player is thanking his fans for what

he calls their, quote, "continuous support" as he challenges the cancellation of his visa with the Australian Open just 10 days away. The

defending champion is fighting to stay in the country. His visa was revoked because Australia says he does not meet its COVID vaccination requirements.

His current stay in a detention center is shedding light on the country's refugee crisis. More than 30 people are staying in the same hotel with


CNN's Anna Coren spoke to one man who fears that once the tennis star leaves, those who remain will be forgotten.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind tinted windows of this four-story hotel in the heart of Melbourne is where the

world's number one men's tennis star is staying.

It's a world away from what Novak Djokovic is accustomed to from his previous trips down under. As the defending Australian Open champion arrive

to claim his 10th title and break the all-time record for 21 grand slam wins.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TENNIS CHAMPION: Love affair keeps growing. Thank you so much.

COREN: Instead the 34-year-old unvaccinated Serbian who has been very outspoken about his anti-vaccine views was given a serious dose of reality

by the Australian Border Force, when he attempted to enter the country on Wednesday night. They cancelled his visa despite Djokovic receiving an

exemption from two panels of medical expert, and ordered for the tennis star to be deported.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Rules are rules. There are no special cases.

COREN: But rather than getting on a plane home to Belgrade, Djokovic's lawyers are fighting for him to stay in the country and compete. And while

they wait for Monday's hearing, this is where Djokovic must stay, an immigration detention facility.

TARA, AUSTRALIAN SERBIAN JUNIOR TENNIS PLAYER: So I don't see why it's fair, I don't see why he should be stuck, one, in a detention center and

everyone has their own freedom of choice, vaccinated or not.

COREN: The Serbian government is demanding he be moved to a nicer hotel while his parents say their son is being treated like a prisoner and held

captive for his beliefs.

KAREN ANDREWS, AUSTRALIAN HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER: Mr. Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave at any time that he chooses

to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that.

COREN: But Novak Djokovic is not the only resident of the Park Hotel. Previously used as a quarantine hotel for returning Australians, for the

past year it's been a detention facility for more than 30 refugees and asylum seekers, languishing inside, waiting for their cases to be heard.

MEHDI, REFUGEE FROM IRAN: There is where I live.

COREN: After spending years in offshore detention centers for attempting to enter Australia by boat. Like Medhi who belongs to a persecuted religious

minority from Iran turning 24 years old today.

MEDHI: We are suffering. We are exhausted. We are tired. We've been in detention more than eight years.


COREN: Famous Australian footballer turned activist Craig Foster says the country's treatment of refugees is a national embarrassment and hopes

Djokovic will use this ordeal to become a voice for the voiceless.

FOSTER: Those refugees are trying to reach out to Djokovic. And, you know, as an athlete with incredible privilege and status and fame, perhaps he can

bring some visibility. He can grow or develop some understanding about the way Australia is treating these people and bring that story to the world.

COREN: Whether Djokovic decides to fight for those forgotten refugees and restore his public image remains to be seen. But for the majority of

Australians there is little sympathy for him.

OSCAR STEMER, MELBOURNE RESIDENT: Djokovic is a millionaire scumbag who has rightly incurred really that anger of a lot of people in Australia.

COREN: This is a country that has endured some of the toughest quarantine and border restrictions in the world. The city of Melbourne hosting the

Australian Open locked down for a total of 256 days in its battle against COVID. As a result, 92 percent of Australians over the age of 16 are now

fully vaccinated. And they have little tolerance for a privileged sports star expecting special treatment.

Anna Coren, CNN.


GORANI: Alex Thomas joins me now in London.

So he's appealing the cancellation of his visa. On what basis is he making this appeal?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I think Novak Djokovic feels that he had all the paperwork he needed to compete in the Australian Open which is

the first of the annual four grand slam events that top tennis players play for every year.


Australia in January, then going on to Roland-Garros, the French Open, later in the year, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And of course Djokovic

stands on the verge of tennis history, leveled with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with 20 grand slam singles titles. Statistically he's already the

greatest of all time because he has other honors alongside him that Nadal and Federer don't have.

But getting out ahead with 21 grand slam single titles would cement that. But because he didn't get vaccinated as Nadal said in a press conference

earlier this week, this was an accident waiting to happen. He would have been in very easily without any controversy if he was vaccinated.

GORANI: And he's not the only tennis player who fell afoul of Australian immigration. There's also a female player who had her visa canceled.

THOMAS: Yes. I think tennis Australia made clear from the very beginning Novak Djokovic wasn't the only player in a group of players who'd applied

for medical exemptions.

There still seems to be a lack of clarity over the rules and regulations laid out by the governing body in that country that also runs the

Australian Open and the state of Victoria, which, as Anna Coren pointed out in her report, particularly in Melbourne, has seen very strict coronavirus

measures, versus what Australia as a country, the federal regulations are. And it seems that Djokovic has fallen foul of those country wide measures

more than the rules set out by Tennis Australia or Victoria.

GORANI: What is Djokovic's issue with getting vaccinated?

THOMAS: He just has very firm sort of spiritual beliefs about positive energy. Feeling better with illnesses and medicine and science. And he's

made those views very clear. You know, famously he's been on sort of veggie and vegan diet for many years, says it's one of the reasons why he's been

such a successful tennis player but clearly there are those who take issue with that. Anyone who's on the public eye as much as he is as a global

sports superstar.

For those of us that believe that vaccines are the way forward and following the science and facts as oppose to fantasy, it's maybe a

dangerous precedent for him to set for all his millions of global fans.

GORANI: All right, Alex, thanks very much.

While Australia has had some of the strictest coronavirus measures in the world, the U.K. is still trying to resist new restrictions. Ahead, we'll

tell you what the prime minister said about anti-vaxxers and while resistance to vaccines is one challenge, access to vaccines is another.

Experts say we can end the pandemic in just months but only if the whole world gets vaccinated. We're so far from that. I'll speak to a senior

adviser at the World Health Organization, coming up.


GORANI: An explosion of coronavirus cases has prompted the British government to send in 200 military personnel to help manage patients

hospitalized in London.


Making matters worse, England is seeing hospital staff absences up to 60 percent in a week due to COVID-19. With the National Health Service in the

country under pressure, the prime minister is blasting anti-vaccine rhetoric.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To the anti-vax campaigners, the people putting this mumbo jumbo on social media, they are completely wrong.

And you haven't heard me say that before because I think it's important that we, you know, I want a voluntary approach in this country.


GORANI: Well, Europe's sharp surge in new cases is being fueled by Omicron. Over 44 percent of cases in Germany are now Omicron. Meanwhile, Austria is

imposing tougher restrictions in hopes of avoiding a lockdown.

While many countries are keeping vaccinations voluntary, others are using mandates to ease pressure on health care systems. Italy is extending its

COVID vaccine mandate. Ben Wedeman is live in Rome.

What does that look like in practice this extension of the vaccine mandate, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Hala, this was announced on Wednesday by the Cabinet that people 50 years and older must

be vaccinated. It's going to take some time for this decree to become totally in effect. The deadline for that is the 15th of February but, for

instance, if you are working and you are not vaccinated, you can be fined somewhere between 600 and 1,500 euro, and after five days you will no

longer receive your salary.

You won't lose your job, if you get vaccinated you can go back to work. But this is the latest step taken by the Italian government to try to bring

this pandemic under control. The numbers that we saw yesterday were shocking. It was reported that there were 219,441 new cases of coronavirus

reported yesterday in Italy.

Now I covered the first wave of COVID here in Italy and in fact the worst day of the first wave saw 6,557 cases reported in one day. So these numbers

are absolutely mind boggling which go a long way to explain why the Italian government is pushing for those who are hesitating to get vaccinated to

just get the jab and get on with life.

By in large the system is dealing, is able to manage with this new wave because the actual number of people going into intensive care and the

actual number of people dying is relatively low compared to what we saw in the first wave in early 2020. But there are some hospitals in Italy that

are considering introducing or re-introducing what's called the black code. That is basically where the doctors who are already under pressure are

going to have to decide who is worth saving or who is beyond saving from COVID -- Hala.

GORANI: And are the hospital cases largely among the unvaccinated in Italy?

WEDEMAN: Among the unvaccinated and among those over 50, which explains why they decided on that age group, 50 and above, because if you are 50 and

above and unvaccinated, the chances of ending up in intensive care, the chances that you will over burden the health care system are very high.

That is why that age group and above are being, are the focus of this new ministerial mandate -- Hala.

GORANI: Thank you. Ben Wedeman in Rome.

A senior adviser to the World Health Organization says the pandemic could be over by the end of the year. Sounds great, doesn't it? Over by the end

of the year? So what's the problem?

The only problem, according to the WHO, is vaccine inequity. 36 countries are still below 10 percent vaccination rates among their populations. Well

below the 70 percent target for a country to be adequately protected against the virus according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, the senior adviser to the

World Health Organization director-general. He says the sooner we get to equitable distribution, the sooner we get out of this pandemic.

And Dr. Aylward joins me now live from Geneva, Switzerland.


Thanks for being with us, Doctor. So we are very, very far. We're very, very far from this 70 percent. The goal is to reach 70 percent jabbed in

every country by mid-2022. But we've missed almost every target in the developing world. How do we get there?


precarious situation in terms of trying to optimally fight this pandemic. You talked about the gap in terms of vaccines but it's the same in terms of

testing, access to treatments, et cetera.

So how do we get the two fundamental things we need? First, access to the vaccines in an equitable manner. Get vaccines. The international facility

set up to get it to everywhere it needs to go, to get equitable distribution.

The second thing we need is enough money to help countries without the resources, hire the people and get the jabs into arms. We need two parts of

this. The supply and the delivery capacity in parallel.

GORANI: OK. But that's not happening and there have been accusations that richer countries are hoarding vaccines, and in some cases some batches are

expiring before they're even used in some of the developed countries. What needs to be done there? The message is not being adequately received it

sounds like.

AYLWARD: Yes, and you're absolutely right, Hala. But these aren't accusations. These are realities. If we look at the distribution of vaccine

around the world, hugely skewed, right? In high income countries now over 70 percent of the population have two doses. In low-income countries, it's

the lowest income countries. Less than 10 percent of the people. And we're all paying a price for it. And the low-income countries are paying it in

terms of lives, of livelihoods.

But in high income countries, we're paying for it as well in livelihoods, in the way we live our lives. We're seeing that today as a result of the

emergence of new variants. So what needs to be done differently? Manufacturers have to play ball, number one. They've got to prioritize

contracts to low-income countries so that we can actually get the doses there. And the high-income countries have got to allow the manufacturers to

honor those contracts.

But this requires political leaders really explaining to their populations, look, we can't get out of this. Omicron has told us. Delta has told us. The

virus keeps telling us. They've got to make the explanation to their populations so it's easier for them to make what are, you know, tough

political choices about prioritizing other parts of the world to catch up.

GORANI: Where are we in the virus' trajectory? The French health minister seems to say this could be Omicron, the last big wave, the last big

variant, and that some had predicted in the beginning that we would start off with very, very severe forms of the illness with the first variant.

Then Delta and now Omicron which appears to be milder and more infectious. Do you believe we're at the tail end here in terms of variants?

AYLWARD: Hala, this is wishful thinking. If we think that we know where this virus is going to go next. It has surprised us multiple times or done

things that we didn't anticipate multiple times. And to think that this virus is running out of steam is foley. Because what we're going to do is

start making wrong decisions. Wrong policies, wrong practice. What we need to do is be saying, look, we've got great vaccines now. We've got great

tests now.

We know how to beat this virus. How do we put all of those to work? Not just this variant but the other ones that are going to come down the

pipeline. We don't know that the next variant is going to be more or less transmissible than Omicron. We don't know whether or not it will evade

immunity. We don't know whether or not it may cause more severe disease. That is what we all love to see.

But it's wishful thinking until we know more and understand more about this virus. We're fighting an enemy that is very new, right?


AYLWARD: Eighteen months of knowledge, Hala. We have got to be on a front foot with this thing.

GORANI: Because it appears as though governments are acting as though this is a less virulent virus, this latest variant, Omicron, by really not

shutting down. England is a good example, for instance. Really not imposing any new restrictions on people. Is that wise to keep society completely

open then?

AYLWARD: Well, here we need to be a little bit careful, right? I mean, each government are going to make the decisions they need to make in their

context knowing what they know about this virus, its costs to its society, to lives, et cetera. They'll make their decisions. But what we have to be

very careful about is not to say we're on a certain trajectory with this virus.

This one is more mild than the next one will be because this one has already shown it may cause more mild disease but the sheer volume of

disease that you talked about in your last segment, that sheer volume of disease can flood your health care systems.


So you get a similarly transmissible virus with just a touch more severity and wow, then you're really in trouble. So we have to be very careful that

we don't know, you know, misinterpret this one, what it's telling us, and become less vigilant in our longer term fight with this virus. But we could

definitely be out of this in 2022 but not with the kind of decisions and not the kind of access to tools globally that we're seeing today.

GORANI: And we're all exhausted and really want this to be over.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, thank you so much.

AYLWARD: Absolutely.

GORANI: Thank you. Have a good rest of your day.

Let's talk about Kazakhstan. The brutal crackdown of protesters in Kazakhstan is not stopping. Take a look.

Well, an update on the president's shockingly blunt orders to kill protesters without warning. And later, new tech makes its debut in Las

Vegas. The Annual Consumer Electronics Show returns in person mostly.

We'll be right back.


GORANI: Welcome back. I'm Hala Gorani in London. And you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. A quick update on our top story.

As the European Union, U.S. and others call for de-escalation and violence across Kazakhstan, that country's president is making clear his method of

dealing with protests there is anything but peaceful.


TOKAYEV (through translator): I gave the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to open fire, to kill without warning.


GORANI: This after days of protesting brought chaos to several Kazakhstan cities. The bloody crackdown on the protesters was helped by so-called

peacekeeping forces from a collective of former Soviet states. The president has also rejected calls to negotiate with the protesters which he

calls criminals and murderers.

And let's get you up to speed on some other stories that are on our radar right now. A Haitian radio station has suspended operations after two

journalists were shot then burned alive by a gang. These are pictures of John Wesley Amady from Radio Ecoute FM. The gang opened fire on a group of

reporters who are about to interview the leader of a rival gang.

Three Eritrean refugees, including two children, were killed by an air strike that hit a camp in the Ethiopia's Tigray region.


The United Nations says four other refugees were wounded. The U.N. didn't say who carried out the strike on Wednesday but only the Ethiopian

government has air power in that area.

Several senior officials in Hong Kong have been put in a government quarantine facility. They include Hong Kong's immigration chief, the

secretary of Home Affairs, and four legislative council members. They are among more than 100 people sent to quarantine after attending a banquet

Monday where there were two COVID cases.

And some sad breaking news to bring you now. A trail blazing actor Sydney Portier has died at the age of 94. He was of course the first black man to

win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

CNN's Sara Sidner looks back at his life and legendary career.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sidney Poitier was so much more than a film legend. He is revered not just because of what he did

on screen but also because of his tremendous impact off screen as a champion of civil rights.

SIDNEY POITIER, ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING ACTOR: We believe in the essential dignity of every human being.

SIDNER: The son of a Bahamian tomato farmer, Poitier lived a life of firsts. The first black man to win an Oscar for best actor, and one of the

first black people to become a true Hollywood star among the greatest of all time.

POITIER: We have lots and lots and lots of African-American actors. Now, when we didn't have any, I appeared, not because I brought so much, but

because the time was right.

SIDNER: But his career almost ended before it ever began. As a teenager, Poitier auditioned for the American Negro Theater, but he was quickly

thrown out because he couldn't read, he was tone deaf, and he had a thick Bahamian accent.

POITIER: He says, you're no actor. We got next to the door, he opened it, pushed me out and slammed it.

SIDNER: A determined Poitier would spend months perfecting his acting skills and modifying his speaking voice. His hard work would pay off in a

big way.

POITIER: I was right. I know I was right.

SIDNER: In the 1950s, he appeared in more than a dozen films beginning with "No Way Out," and including an Oscar-nominated performance in "The Defiant

Ones." However, it was his portrayal of a former G.I. in the 1963 movie, "Lilies of the Field," that broke Hollywood's color barrier, earning him

the coveted Oscar for best actor.

Poitier never overcame his tone deafness, lip-syncing the song "Amen" in the famous "Lilies" scene. The songwriter, Jester Hairston, actually did

the singing.

Poitier was considered a bankable star in 1967, starring in a landmark film, "To Sir with Love."

POITIER: Those kids are devils incarnate. I tried everything.

SIDNER: Playing characters that would force audiences to confront racial prejudices.

POITER: They call me Mr. Tibbs.

SIDNER: But he would also challenge the Hollywood establishment, forcing a change in his iconic role as Detective Virgil Tibbs in the 1967 Academy

Award-winning "In the Heat of the Night," because of a scene that would require him to acquiesce to a racist character.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to take you over to Brownsville and put you on the bus myself.

POITIER: You aren't taking me anywhere, you dig? You're holding the wrong man.

SIDNER: That same year, he would star in the watershed film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," alongside Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.


SIDNER: The film not only depicted a successful interracial relationship, it also foreshadowed future progress in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you given any thought to the problems your children are going to have?

POITIER: Yes. And they'll have some. And we'll have the children, otherwise I don't know what you would call it, but you couldn't call it a marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that the way Joy feels?

POITIER: She feels that every single one of our children will be president of the United States and they'll all have colorful administrations.

SIDNER: It's only fitting that in 2009, Sidney Poitier would be presented with the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Poitier once called his driving purpose to make himself a better person. He did. And he made us all a

little bit better along the way.


GORANI: Wow. Such a sad news to report to you. But so glad he lived such a long life. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." I think that's going to be my

weekend viewing. We'll be right back. Stay with us.



GORANI: Public health officials in Los Angeles say they expect the Super Bowl to go on as scheduled next month. While safety precautions will be in

place the NFL, the National Football League, is exploring contingency plans if L.A. cannot host the championship game.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County recorded its highest level of new coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Are you ready for the start of Africa's biggest football tournament? Here's Liverpool forward Sadio Mane from Senegal who's already celebrating. He'll

be representing his country when Africa's Cup of Nations kicks off this weekend.

Alex Thomas is back to tell us more about the so-called AFCON.

THOMAS: Yes, Hala, this the Africa's version of the European Championship or the Copa America. But much more controversial than most other

tournaments mainly because it's back to this time of year in the middle of the European Cup seasons, amid those big stars that have paid lots of money

by some of the most famous clubs in the world having to leave those schedules and go and play for their countries instead. Many saying it's

disrespectful to question the AFCON at all. We've got the full low down of the tournament which kicks off on Sunday in just a few moments.

GORANI: All right. Alex, thanks. And Alex will be back with "WORLDSPORT" after a break. And I'll see you later.