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Hala Gorani Tonight

Tokyo Marks Start of Olympics with Subdued Ceremony; Key Food Workers in England Exempted from Isolation Rules; U.N.: Lebanon's Water System on Verge of Total Collapse; Olympics Begin Amid Unprecedented Challenge; U.S. Strikes Taliban In Final Stages Of Troop Withdrawal; Wildfires Ravage Parts of Siberia. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 14:00:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everybody, good to have you with us live from CNN London, I'm Cyril Vanier in for Hala Gorani. Tonight,

the Olympics are off and running, how the unprecedented opening ceremonies turned out in the end. We'll be live in Tokyo. Then the great British COVID

experiment, the world is watching as England reopens, cases rise and thousands get pinged. And later, from the Great Barrier Reef to the U.S.

west and even in Siberia, the world is feeling the heat right now. What to do about the real world impact of climate change?

So, after waiting for more than a year, Tokyo has finally launched the pandemic-delayed Olympics. The city held the opening ceremony just a few

hours ago with a mix of celebration and of course caution. Most athletes had to wear face coverings as they marched in front of the limited crowd.

That's because COVID-19 is still casting a huge shadow in Japan with more than a 100 people tied to the games testing positive so far. Selina Wang is

in Tokyo. Selina, we are finally there. The games are happening despite everything, all the conversations we've had. What does it feel like to be

in Tokyo right now?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Cyril, it really felt like up to the last minute we were still questioning whether or not Japan could pull this

off, and now we are finally here. And officials in Japan are hoping that once when these competitions really get underway and people start to see

the incredible performances of athleticism and seeing their country win a lot of medals, that the public sentiment will change. But right now, still

intense opposition to the games. In fact, there were protests ongoing throughout the opening ceremony, they're chanting for hours, calling for

these games to be cancelled, saying that these games are putting Japanese people's health and lives at risk, putting money and politics over the

Japanese public.

But I also spoke to several bystanders who were trying to get close and see all of the action and a lot of mixed feelings from them. Take a listen to

what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They might need to control the corona better for us, and then think about it, yes, that's what I feel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had 20 tickets to the games, all my sisters were supposed to come to Japan to experience it with me. And so, it's kind of

bittersweet that I can't do anymore. Up until two weeks ago, I thought a lot of us aren't going to go to the games and they cancelled all of it. So,

I'm trying to get as close as possible as I can because I love the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we're in it, but I think it's just once in a lifetime, so we're here to support it.


WANG: Cyril, there's still a lot of concern and frustration for people on the ground that a huge sporting event is happening where the host city is

under a state of emergency, COVID-19 cases still surging, and just about 20 percent of the Japanese public has been fully vaccinated. And also, more

instances of athletes losing their chance for that Olympic journey, Olympic dream because of COVID-19. But meanwhile, that opening ceremony was really

surreal to see just about 950 VIPs including Jill Biden, Japan's emperor in a stadium that can fit 68,000 people.

And overall, the tone was subdued. At times, it was somber. There was a moment of silence to remember those who have lost their lives because of

COVID-19 to talk about the athletes who could not be there. And after spending $15 billion and years preparing for these games, this was just not

the Olympics that Japan had dreamed of. But we all at this point in the games are in fact going ahead.

VANIER: Yes, absolutely, these opening ceremonies are normally a moment when the host wants to really wow the world. It just wasn't quite the right

time for that. Selina Wang, of course, you're going to be walking us through all this Olympic coverage over the next two weeks, thank you so

much. We'll have much more on the Olympics later in the program, including a breakdown of the games themselves, and I'll be speaking to a former

Paralympian. That's going to be interesting, so stay tuned for that. Now, let's go to the U.K. where governments are making exceptions to COVID self-

isolation rules over concerns of supply disruptions.

Record numbers of people in the U.K. have been notified by the COVID-19 contact-tracing app that they need to self-isolate because of potential

contact with a person infected with coronavirus. But food industry workers in England are now being exempted from that because their absence left

grocery store shelves empty. And workers in Scotland's food, health and transport industries can now apply to be exempt from self-isolation. CNN's

Scott McLean joins me now from London. He's got more on this. Scott, we're coming up on the end now of this first week of what is a pretty unique

global experiment on managing COVID. How is it going?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cyril, so, the experiment is basically, can you let the virus run wild amongst younger parts of the

population and bank on the vaccine to actually do its job?


Well, in theory that sounds OK, considering 90-plus-percent of many of the oldest age groups are vaccinated and young people are not really at a high

risk of dying from the virus. In practice though, five days freedom, the prime minister, the chancellor, the health secretary, they are all in self-

isolation. But one in 75 people in England currently are estimated to have the virus at this moment. About 1 percent of the population of England and

Wales got a ping on their phone in just one week, telling them to self- isolate. The pace of vaccinations has also slowed to its lowest levels since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, and of course, as you

mentioned, there are concerns about food shortages.

So, I'm not sure that you would call that a smashing success. On the bright side though, hospitalizations and deaths are obviously a fraction of what

they would be were the vaccine not doing its job. More than half of people currently showing up in the hospital are under the age of 50. That's good

news, obviously, they are much less likely to die. And about 93 percent of them according to the latest data are either unvaccinated or only partially

vaccinated. That's also good news because the vaccine is doing its job. But as you mentioned, Cyril, the government today had to sort of expand the

list of people eligible for exemptions to those quarantine rules if they've been in contact with someone who had the virus, not only as healthcare

workers, people who keep the lights on and the train is running, but it's also people who work in food processing.

In England at least, it's not going to be people who work at the grocery store, but people who work at grocery depots further upstream, and also

things like meat-packing plants, dairy, bread processing facilities, things like that.

VANIER: I did not know that number that you referenced earlier, that 1 percent of the population was pinged -- 1 percent in one week was told to

self-isolate. Speaking frankly, that makes me want to turn off the app, you know, which is a voluntary thing. And I know some people have done that.

But look, it's so -- easy to criticize at this stage of the experiment. Is there, however, a scenario where we look back at this in a few weeks and

say, actually, yes, this worked out well. This gamble worked out.

MCLEAN: Yes, of course. I mean, anything could happen, and this is pretty uncharted territory. This is a pretty unprecedented experiment that we're

in right now and there's not a lot of case studies to look at and say, that's the most likely thing to happen or that's definitely what's going to

be happening. Right now, case counts, daily case counts have dipped a little bit. That could be a momentarily blip -- a momentary blip in time.

It also could be a sign that the worst has come and gone, and this peak of the wave is behind us. And maybe in a couple of weeks, you know, we could

wake up and this could all be a bad dream. But there's also this nightmare scenario that right now, the perfect conditions exist for, scientists say,

and that's when you have a high level of vaccination, but also a high level of infection.

That's a perfect scenario to have a new variant come along that can escape the protections provided by the vaccine. How likely is it? Well, scientists

don't actually know. But of course, people here in the U.K. who are just starting to get back now into their daily routines and start to feel like

they have a normal life again, they definitely don't want to find out, Cyril.

VANIER: No, absolutely, fingers crossed. Fingers crossed we don't get a new variant that seem worse than this one. Scott McLean in London, thank you.

MCLEAN: You bet.

VANIER: And as some places introduced a green pass vaccination, one rock legend is taking a hard pass. Eric Clapton says that he will not perform at

any venues that require a COVID vaccination. This came via telegram account of one of his contacts. He says the fundamental issue is discrimination

against people who haven't had the vaccine. He previously used telegram to say that he had had an adverse reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine. And

there's new evidence that COVID-19 is affecting people even if they've been fully vaccinated. Research suggests the Delta variant is a critical factor,

no surprise there.

Around 20 percent of the new COVID cases reported in Los Angeles in June were among fully vaccinated people according to official data. In Houston,

Texas, a study at a large healthcare system found that 6.5 percent of cases were in fully vaccinated people. Elizabeth Cohen is with us. These

breakthrough studies, Elizabeth, how worried should vaccinated people be?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I don't think they're worried that vaccinated people need to worry that they're going to

get very sick from this -- from this virus. What's really been happening typically is that vaccinated people are getting breakthrough infections,

but they're not getting very sick. The hospitalization rates for vaccinated people remain extremely low. As a matter of fact, we can take a look at

those and you can see that it just isn't happening all that often. So, that's a great thing. But I think that what is concerning is, are

vaccinated people passing it along to other people? And we don't know. We know that when they look at viral loads -- take a look at this.


This is really important. In the U.S., 97 percent of the people who are in the hospital are unvaccinated, 97 percent of the people who are in the

hospital are unvaccinated, and 99.5 percent of the people who have died are unvaccinated. So, that does speak volumes. The question, Cyril, is what

happens? Do those -- do those vaccinated but infected people, they don't get very sick, but do they pass it along to others? That's unclear. We do

know that some studies have shown that when you look in the noses of vaccinated infected people, they've got virus, but their viral load is way

lower than folks who are unvaccinated.

VANIER: OK, so, the important thing to point out because I think absolutely everybody watching this will want to be crystal clear about this. You know,

whether they've got the vaccine and they're kind of wondering whether it's protecting them or they haven't got the vaccine, and they're still

wondering whether it's worth it, the data is super clear about this, Elizabeth, which is that unvaccinated people are most at risk and are

spreading the virus the most.

COHEN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, those numbers that we were just looking at about hospitalizations and deaths, in fact, if we can put them back up

there, I think those numbers speak volumes. In the United States, the vast majority of people who are in the hospital or who have died are

unvaccinated. That number alone should convince you to get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, you might get a bit sick with the Delta variant if it

reaches you, but first of all, you might not even know it at all, and if you do get sick, it's going to be not a big deal. You will not go to the

hospital most likely and you will not die. Just look at that number right there. That explains why you need to get vaccinated.

VANIER: Absolutely. And you know, that question has been so important in countries with high vaccination rates especially like here in the U.K., for

instance, as more and more people -- I think it's 70 percent of adults now, almost 70 percent are fully vaccinated. You are seeing more vaccinated

people get it, the breakthrough cases that you're talking about. But you've put all that in perspective now. Elizabeth, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

VANIER: And still to come tonight, yet another dire warning for a country already in crisis. Lebanon's water supply could be on the verge of total

collapse. Stay with us.


VANIER: The people of Lebanon have already endured so much, yet their ongoing crisis appear to have no end. A U.N. agency is now warning that the

country's water supply system is on the verge of total collapse.


Four million people are at risk of losing access to safe water, and that, by the way, is a sizable chunk of the Lebanese population. CNN's Ben

Wedeman is live in Beirut. Ben, how did it get to this and what happens if the country is no longer able to pump water?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cyril, this report from UNICEF says that 71 percent of the population within four to

six weeks will no longer have access to clean water because the fuel is simply not there to fuel the pumps that pump the water because this is a

country that is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt. It does not have the money to buy the fuel to provide to the pumps, to pump the water. It

does not have the money to maintain the water system. It does not have the money to put chlorine in the water to make it drinkable.

And really, this is just the latest part of this country, the state writ- large that is falling apart, keeping in mind, Cyril, that for instance, here in Beirut, we get perhaps two hours a day of state electricity, the

rest is made up if you have the money. And increasingly, many people don't buy generators. But the generator syndicate, the group that -- basically,

the group of people who run the generators say that Monday, they may have to shut off because they don't have the money to buy the fuel. And of

course, without those generators, food cannot be refrigerated, food cannot be maintained in sanitary conditions. Really, gradually, this country over

the last two years is being pushed back into the pre-industrial era. Cyril?

VANIER: You have chronicled, Ben, that Lebanon is a broken country, whether it's water, electricity, as you just mentioned, rubbish collection,

banking, to say nothing of the country's politics, of course. So many basic services are failing. Is there a fix for this?

WEDEMAN: There is, in theory, a fix. You know, for decades since the civil war ended in 1990, the international community would provide loans, grants,

would bail this country out time and time again on the assumption that the money they gave Lebanon would be used to modernize the infrastructure, the

roads, the water system, the power system. That money was stolen, to put it frankly, or was given away as patronage, even before the crisis of the last

two years, there were still electricity cuts in Beirut of three hours a day. Outside of Beirut, as much as 16 hours a day, and I'm talking about

before the crisis.

Now, the solution is basically to get rid of the entire political class that has run this country for decades and replace it with people who have

the country's interests above their own personal interests. Now, the European Union has said that it is preparing the framework for sanctions to

impose on Lebanon's political leaders to basically force them to stop squabbling among themselves, stop squabbling over the spoils of this

decomposing state, form a government, introduce reforms. And then the international community in theory, the IMF, the World Bank and Lebanon's

old friends like France, the United States and Saudi Arabia will start pumping money back in.

But until the elite gets its act together, cleans up its act, this country is simply going to continue to unravel day by day until God knows what.


VANIER: And it's worth pointing out, Ben, that this is a small country economically speaking in terms of how much money would be needed to fix

this problem, you know, relative, obviously, to the pockets of the international community. We're talking about a population of a few million

people, and yet, here we are. Ben Wedeman in Beirut, thank you so much.

Foreign diplomats joined mourners in Haiti today to pay their final respects to assassinated President Jovenel Moise. He was laid to rest in

his hometown of Cap-Haitien. Angry shouts at times interrupted the somber music as protesters accused authorities of failing to provide adequate

security for the president. He was shot dead in his home on July 7th. Police have arrested 26 foreign suspects, most of them Colombian, but no

one has been formally charged as yet.


And as Brazil's coronavirus death toll climbs, more people are losing faith in President Bolsonaro to handle the crisis. His popularity plummeting.

He's even losing some of his most passionate fans. Isa Soares reports.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of President Jair Bolsonaro's most enthusiastic supporter Ana Claudia Graf thought the right-

wing leader would be Brazil's savior.

ANA CLAUDIA GRAF, FORMER BOLSONARO SUPPORTER (through translator): He appeared to us as a man who defended the fight against corruption, who

defended the family institution, who said he would never allow cronyism, that it would be a different government. I really believed in this thing

that was sold to me. I went all in. I fought for it to happen.

SOARES: But two and a half years after Bolsonaro swept to power, this former fan is full of regret.

GRAF: It was a mistake. It was the biggest mistake of my life.

SOARES: Tired of corruption allegations, devastated by Brazil's COVID death toll, she's become a full-time political activist, demanding her

president's impeachment.

GRAF: I will not shut up. I will fight. I will fight until I take this man out of power.

SOARES: Graf is one of many to lose faith in the country's leader, putting pressure on Bolsonaro ahead of presidential elections next year. The

president's disapproval rating is at an all-time high. For the first time since he took office, more than half of voters now support impeachment

proceedings at issue, his handling of the COVID pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are more than half a million people dead.

SOARES: Bolsonaro skeptic of lockdowns, masks, and vaccines, once dismissed the virus as a little flu, it's now claimed more than half a million lives

in Brazil, the world's second highest death toll. He faces a major Senate investigation.

JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT, BRAZIL: I won't answer to these kinds of people under no circumstances.

SOARES: The government has also been rocked by corruption allegations over the purchase of COVID vaccines, damaging the image of a president who

promised to root up graft. As anger rises on the streets, former allies turn their backs on the president, disillusioned with the man who swept

their party to power.

JUNIOR BOZZELLA, FEDERAL CONGRESSMAN, BRAZIL (through translator): We really imagined that he was tough, that he was honest and that he was going

to fight for everything that was wrong in the republic. But in the end, it turned out to be nothing like that.

SOARES: Junior Bozzella is a federal congressman from Bolsonaro's former party, the PSL. He's backing a fresh impeachment request that has support

from lawmakers from the left and right.

BOZZELLA: Every day that he is in power advances the process of corruption. He is bleeding the public coffers, and at the time of pandemic, he's not

giving a damn, shrugging his shoulders and making fun, mocking death and the lives of Brazilians.

SOARES: But Bolsonaro's critics worry he may not accept defeat next year.

BOLSONARO: I'll hand over the presidential sash to whoever wins the election cleanly, not with fraud.

SOARES: At a recent bike rally, these Bolsonaro-sters stand firm, saying their president is a scapegoat fighting to change the country for the


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They'll invent anything that's an excuse. Everything that happens is Bolsonaro's fault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): he's being bullied, abused, suffocated. And even so, we're seeing him do things others haven't been

able to do in 30 years.

SOARES: The question now, how long Brazil will stand behind its populist leader. Isa Soares, CNN.


VANIER: A new U.N. report says that nearly 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, Islamist terrorism remains a major threat around the world especially in

parts of Africa. It also says the pandemic travel restrictions in the west have played an important role in combating terrorism. CNN's Nic Robertson

has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): COVID-19 travel and other restrictions have kept international Islamist terror

threats at bay, a new U.N. report reveals. But it hasn't killed their threat.

EDMUND FITTON-BROWN, U.N. MONITORING TEAM COORDINATOR: One of the things that we highlight in the report that's just come out is the possibility

that the relaxation of lockdowns might mean that some pre-planned attacks can then take place.

ROBERTSON: The report 20 years after al Qaeda's horrific 9/11 attacks reveals a world of growing Jihadist threats and waning efforts to counter

them. From Somalia in East Africa where U.S. forces backing the government left this year, al Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabaab is spreading its brand of

violence south into Kenya. Other al Qaeda affiliates making gains through the Sahel region of Africa too.


Meanwhile, in Central and West Africa, ISIS is strengthening, crossing borders from Mali into Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Senegal, and

from Nigeria into Cameroon. In Nigeria, the death of an al Qaeda affiliated leader as ISIS affiliated fighters surrounded him, likely makes the ISIS

affiliate the biggest outside of Syria.

FITTON-BROWN: Part of their vision of these regional structures is that these will enable them to increase the interoperability of their global

network and ultimately to mount a more effective threat particularly in the west.

ROBERTSON: Another risk-gaining momentum, the birth place of the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan. Although, it is too soon for the report to conclude

the impact of the Taliban's recent gains and the U.S. drawdown, one member state estimates ISIS who claimed a rocket attack narrowly missing Afghan

leaders attending prayers in the capital Tuesday to have 500 to 1,500 fighters and be focusing on the capital, Kabul. And al Qaeda, whom U.S.

forces chased from the country after 9/11 now have a presence in at least 15 of the country's 34 provinces, fighting alongside the Taliban and appear

to be counting on a military victory.

FITTON-BROWN: That gives them time in which to stabilize, to continue to use Afghanistan as a platform and then in the longer term to review whether

it's possible to use it as a platform also for international attacks.

ROBERTSON: Twenty years on from the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda's then number two, now its chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri is thought to be unwell. His expected

replacement Saif al-Adel, the report says is in Iran, likely assessing if Afghanistan is safe for his return. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


VANIER: And still to come tonight from celebration to competition, athletes are ready for action. We'll look at the sports of the games next. And the

gold standard like no other, what it takes to actually get to the Olympics and Paralympics. We speak to someone who turned dreams into reality. Stay

with us.



VANIER: And our top story today, after postponements, controversy, and despite ongoing calls to cancel the whole thing, Tokyo Olympics are indeed

and truly underway. The opening ceremony happened just a few hours ago. Before that official kickoff, Will Ripley brought us this report from above

the host city.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Taking off, it really hits you. Hosting the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games is a massive logistical challenge.


RIPLEY: This is one of the biggest cities in the world. Every single direction you look in the skyline is never-ending.


RIPLEY: One building really stands out. Tokyo's $1.5 billion Olympic Stadium.


RIPLEY: Right now, we're flying over the centerpiece of Tokyo 2020, almost 70,000 seats in that stadium. Nearly all of them empty.


RIPLEY: The Olympics' first ever spectator band, a dramatically scaled down opening ceremony. Organizers say only about 950 VIPs attending, including

U.S. first lady Jill Biden. We get a closer look on the ground.


RIPLEY: This is as close as most Japanese are able to get to their Olympic Stadium. Police have shut down surrounding roads and even fenced off the



RIPLEY: For everyday folks, this is their only shot at seeing the Olympics up close.


RIPLEY: Public opinion polls show Japanese overwhelmingly don't want the games to go forward, but you wouldn't know it looking at these long lines

of people who are waiting to take selfies in front of the Olympic rings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm worried about the Olympic Bubble. It's not perfect, but I want to cheer on the athletes.


RIPLEY: That bubble to protect athletes from COVID-19. A small but growing number of athletes are testing positive even inside the Olympic Village.


POPPY STARR OLSEN, AUSTRALIAN SKATEBOARDER: I'm so excited to go to Tokyo but I'm also, like, terrified, the fact that you'll fly all the way there

and then test positive.


RIPLEY: Athletes are tested for COVID daily, asked to arrive five days before competing and leave two days after. From above, you can see how

packed it is.


RIPLEY: Some 18,000 athletes and officials will be staying in those buildings down there. You can see a lot of their national flags on the



RIPLEY: Most of the Olympic venues are here in Tokyo. Japan invested billions only to have fake crowd noise echoing through all those empty



RIPLEY: This is going to be an Olympics like none other and the world is watching. They want to see if Japan can pull this off in the middle of a

pandemic, in the middle of a state of emergency without the Olympics turning into a super spreader event. Will Ripley CNN flying above Tokyo.


VANIER: You gotta love that reporting by Will Ripley. He picked the coolest assignment that day. CNN's Alex Thomas is following all of the action for

us, Alex from our sports team. Alex, what are the headline acts we should be looking out for, you're looking out for as you cover these Olympics?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT: We can argue, Cyril, the headline act actually is just the games itself, by far and away the biggest sports event

we ever see held not annual, it is held every four years. But when you look at the number of athletes and countries involved more than 11,000

competitors from over 200 countries and territories around the world competing in 33 different sports, well over 330 events, over dozens of


Plus you throw in the COVID problems that we've been talking about so much on CNN over the last few weeks, months, and well over a year, really, you

can understand what a huge logistical challenge it is for everyone involved on the ground and all the broadcasters broadcasting the sports and the

action around the world.

So look out particularly for five new sports on the Olympic program this year. And they are baseball, and softball, karate, sport climbing, which

could be really interesting, and also surfing as well. So some of those sports brought in to try and attract a younger audience. And of course the

minor sports, this is the one time they can shine and get a spotlight on them when often they go unseen for the other four years of the Olympic

cycle, Cyril.

VANIER: To be honest, I'm really surprised that karate is in the Olympics for the first time. I assumed karate was already an Olympic sport, but OK.


Is there -- so is there a concern about athlete performance given the ongoing COVID pandemic? Are we concerned that perhaps athletes just won't

be quite as good? Won't be quite as good, won't break as many records, that type of thing?

THOMAS: Well, it's well outlined on this report of course, the big missing element is fan involvement, fan engagements. Normally, the Olympics are

synonymous with loud cheers and a passionate atmosphere, particularly for the home favorites. Let's take you through some of the key performers in

these Olympic Games. And we can look out for one and two home hopes in particular in the shape of men's golfer, Hideki Matsuyama. He won his first

ever major earlier this year at the Masters Tournament, or Augusta.

And, of course, the sweet hearts for all of Japanese sport, and has been for some years, is Naomi Osaka, the tennis player who quit the French Open

earlier this year in controversial circumstances around the mental health pressure she was facing when it came to dealing with the media. Simone

Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, and a multiple gold medalist from the Rio Games back in 2016 in Brazil, Katie Ledecky, and

American superstar swimmer with five times Olympic gold medalists across London 2012 and Rio 2016.

And look out for Armand Mondo Duplantis, who's the American-born Swedish pole vaulter who's already broken the world indoor records this year, and

possibly could break the outdoor record. It can cut both ways, Cyril. Without a crowd in the stadia, then those who are new and inexperienced,

younger, Duplantis is only 21 for example, though it's more of a level playing field for them against those who are more experienced and used to

these major championships, it will feel more like a training exercise potentially for them. So it could bring out their best, whereas others, of

course, love to get the crowd behind them, particularly the track and field athletes often get a bit of a clap going from the crowd as we've seen

previous Olympics.

VANIER: By the way, Duplantis, for somebody who's American born in Swedish, he's got a very French name. Just thought I'd put that out there. For your

money, Alex, is there anyone you feel is a sure thing in terms of winning a gold medal or perhaps the closest thing to a sure thing?

THOMAS: Well, all those names we just mentioned, Simone Biles is the one that stands out, absolutely incredible. One of these athletes really that's

done so much for her sports, on and off the mat, you could say when it comes to gymnastics, clearly instrumental when addressing some of the

sexual abuse controversies that have affected gymnastics, particularly in the United States.

Whereas when it comes to sports, and being laser-focused on a competition, you get no one better, so much talent and energy and personality in such a

small package, absolute dynamite when it comes to entertainment and certainly she'll be one to watch over the next couple of weeks.

VANIER: Absolutely. Alex Thomas, you're going to be spearheading the sports team that is covering all of this for us here at CNN. Thank you so much for

coming on the show today. And for the athletes themselves, getting to these Olympics is historic in its own right. Here's some of the athletes who

turned that dream into a reality.


ROSE LAVELLE, USA SOCCER PLAYER: Kind of the pinnacle of all sports is playing in the Olympics.

KATIE LEDECKY, USA SWIMMER: I'm at the point where I'm really excited to race.

ARMAND DUPLANTIS, SWEDISH POLE VAULER: I want to go there and I want to win.

ALLYSON FELIX, USA TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE: This will be my last time around. And so I want to take it all in.


ARAM MAHMOUD, REFUGEE OLYMPIC TEAM, BADMINTON: Finally, I got I got my chance to let the world see that we can do a lot.

ALICE DEARING, BRITISH SWIMMER: If I can help in any way display what Black swimmer can do, I want to do that.

MEDINA: This is our first time represent my country. And I'm ready to show what surfing is like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huge alley-oop from Gabriel Medina.

LAVELLE: It's such an honor. And I love representing this team.

FELIX: Each Olympic Games that I have been to has been different. And, you know, I just want to -- I want this one to be memorable as well.

LEDECKY: I hope that we've can inspire others with that resiliency, and that drive, that ambition to move forward.

DUPLANTIS: I'm so ready for it. And I really just want to go out there and compete. I don't really care. I just want to go out there I want to

experience a childhood dream of mine.


VANIER: Imagine going through all of that, all those years of preparation and then actually winning gold and then imagine doing that not once, not

twice, eleven times? Tanni Grey-Thompson doesn't have to imagine because she has achieved that. She joins us now. Thank you so much for being on the

show. It's a great day, of course, to be talking to you. Bring us into the mind of the athlete, what is like -- what is it like when you get to this

stage day one, opening day, everything you have worked for, and it's right there in front of you, you need to perform?

TANNI GREY-THOMPSON, 11-TIME PARALYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: It sometimes feels that you're right back at the beginning of your journey because to get to

this point. You have athletes who've been training incredibly hard some of them since they're five and six years old who might be practicing twelve to

fifteen times a week, fifty weeks a year and that part of it is quite dull and boring and hard.


But I think once the opening ceremony comes about, you know that is it, there is no going back. There is nothing that you can do. And the feeling

in the village changes, because the opening ceremony has always been a really important part of the start of the games. And athletes just want to

get on with it. Obviously COVID has made things incredibly difficult. But for athletes, you know, we've got athletes from the U.K. who've been

training for 20 years to get to this point.

VANIER: So you say COVID's made things incredibly difficult. Do you think it will impact performance? I've been asking everybody that. I asked Alex

Thomas that, I asked an Olympian that yesterday, she said she thinks the people who will win and who will get through this gauntlet are the athletes

who are most adaptable.

THOMPSON: So it does teach you to be very adaptable, and control the things that you have control of, and to also let things go. The hard part with the

last 18 months is that athletes haven't been able to compete. The switch to new training has been relatively OK for some. But it's that test, the test

in competition is so different to the test in practice. And so going into it, you may not know who some of the rivals are, who some of the younger up

and coming athletes there are. With the delay, there are athletes who couldn't hang on for that fun year.

We've also got athletes selected who wouldn't have made the games last year. So it's a very different picture about who's going to be on the start

line. I think once -- in my sport athletics, once the gun goes, you don't hear the crowd and I've competed in front of a hundred and ten thousand

people, because you're so focused on the race.

The hard bit is, it's really hard to do with lap of honor and celebrate when there's no one that you can feed off, there's no one to celebrate

with, things like the national anthems will be very different because again, in athletics, everyone is very -- actually all sports people are

respectful, they stand. If they know the tune, they hum it. And that is going to feel very flat for a lot of athletes.

VANIER: I don't know if you know this, but a part of the official guidance guidelines rules sent to the athletes is no cheering. There's also no

clapping, no hugging, no talking to each other in the lift. I mean, that's -- but no cheering, I thought it was one that's really a -- that's not

compatible with Olympics. Tell me more about how you feel about no public from a performance standpoint.

THOMPSON: It's a shame they're not there. I mean, not least for the Tokyo Organizing Committee because the crowds bring in revenue in terms of

merchandising and, you know, this is the payback point for them. A lot of athletes will be used to competing in front of very small crowds, or the

vast majority of what they do in terms of training takes place with, you know, not much around them at all. But I think it's going to be different

and challenging for a lot of people.

For the athletes, they just want to be there, they want the chance to win the gold medal. For so many athletes, they only get to go to one games,

this is it for them. So they'll have weighed up all the risks of COVID. All the teams will have given their athletes a lot of support, in terms of

advice on what to do and the testing. But this is the one chance for many athletes to show what they can do.

VANIER: So I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's an immersive sound system, which will play crowd noises from previous Olympics, the idea

being for athletes to still feel like they're in an Olympic Stadium surrounded by fans, even though, of course, there's nobody. Any thoughts on


THOMPSON: It's probably a step towards something. But from being in the stadium, you feel the crowd as much as hear it. And, you know, because the

cheering, you'd feel the noise coming towards you. And if you're doing a lap of honor, the noise travels around with you. So it's going to be -- I

mean, the Japanese might have found a solution to that. I think that will be better than nothing. But it's obviously not the same as having the

crowds there.

VANIER: Olympian Tanni Grey-Thompson. Thank you so much for your time today.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

VANIER: And still to come tonight, withdrawn, but not gone. The U.S. is still striking Taliban targets in Afghanistan. Why and what were the

targets? That's next.



VANIER: Overnight, the U.S. military launched two strikes in Afghanistan against the Taliban, targeting equipment that the group had captured during

the final stages of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann joins me now. Oren, what more can you tell us about these

strikes, number one, and how does this fit in to the wider context of the U.S. pullout?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, according to defense officials we've spoken with, this was a pair of airstrikes in the Kandahar

Province against the Taliban in support of the Afghan military. The strikes targeted captured equipment that is equipment that was turned over from the

U.S. to the Afghan military as part of the withdrawal and the turnover of bases and equipment to the Afghan military. And then that equipment was

then taken over by the Taliban as it has swept across the country.

This isn't the only struck -- such strike that has happened in recent days. In the last thirty days or so, there have been six or seven strikes carried

out by the U.S. against the Taliban normally or mostly by drones. Three of the last four strikes have targeted captured equipment. So that is a

developing trend as the Taliban has made its offensive across Afghanistan.

According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, who spoke earlier this week, the Taliban has taken over some 212 or 213 out

of a total 419 districts across the country so about half the districts in the country. They have not yet taken over 34 provincial capitals, but they

have surrounded half of them in what appears to be an attempt, Milley said, to isolate major population centers, including Kabul.

The U.S. has and will continue to carry out some strikes to support the Afghan forces. It appears to be a decision by military leadership that it

won't let captured equipment be used against the Afghan military and certainly not in strategically important areas like the Kandahar province.

As for how this looks going forward after the withdrawal of U.S. forces is complete at the end of August, that remains an open question, one that

depends not only on the state of fighting, but also on the state of the attempted diplomatic process to try to achieve some sort of resolution

between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

That, however, may not be the brightest prospect at this point. Those talks have long been stalled, Cyril. As of right now, Pentagon officials know

that the situation is not going well for the Afghan military, as the Taliban has put on this narrative of success across the country. It is

still an open question as to where this goes from here, one everyone here is watching.

VANIER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thank you very much. And still to come on tonight's show, wildfire has gone -- well, gone wild. The global

battle to contain extreme blazes driven by the climate crisis. Also find out why environmentalists are angry at UNESCO over the world's most famous

underwater treasure.



VANIER: OK. Take a look at these incredible scenes of flooding in China's Hunan Province. At least 51 lives lost in this historic rainfall. Here in

the city of Guangzhou, firefighters continue to pump water from tunnels, including a subway where at least a dozen people drowned earlier this week.

And a typhoon is expected to bring more rain in the coming days. And from floods to firesm, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, wildfires are

scorching areas that rarely burned before. As Tom Sater reports climate change is contributing to extreme weather patterns around the globe.


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is known as one of the world's coldest cities. Now, wildfires near Yakutsk in Russia, Siberia blanket the area in

smoky haze. From above, Russian military dropped water, hoping to douse the flames below as they tear through some 800,000 hectares of forest. In the

western U.S., firefighters also taking measures to battle ongoing fires, dousing the tracks and surrounding area with water from a moving train in

hopes of stopping Northern California's Dixie fire from spreading.

Further north, the Bootleg fire in Oregon is growing with incredible speed becoming so intense that it's creating its own weather formation.


KATE BROWN, OREGON GOVERNOR: What is very clear is that no corner of our state is immune to fire. On the West Coast, and here in Oregon, the urgent

and dangerous climate crisis has exacerbated conditions on the ground.


SATER: Canada, the western U.S., and Russia, all fighting massive fires, all seeing firsthand what scientists have warned about for years. According

to Copernicus Climate Change Service, those regions all experienced a drier than average June, turning their forest to tinder boxes. Now fires raging

in those regions are releasing environment polluting aerosols into the air, just one of the ways the blazes could be accelerating global warming, as

once periodic wildfires become more frequent and extreme than ever before. Tom Sater, CNN.


VANIER: A wildfires, deadly heat waves, and fatal floods, all you have to do is watch this show to know that these disasters are becoming more and

more common. So we must adapt. CNN's Pete Muntean speaks to experts who are preparing for potential disasters in the future.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With roads buckling in the Pacific Northwest, a deluge drenching a New York City subway and fatal flooding

across Europe, scientists say climate change is here and it's pounding our infrastructure.





MUNTEAN: Josh DeFlorio heads Climate Resilience for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It is beefing up its tunnels, airports, and train

stations to handle higher temperatures and higher sea levels. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left this PATH Commuter Train Station in New Jersey

entirely underwater.


DAMIAN MCSHANE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, PANYNJ CAPITAL PROGRAMS: We needed to realize that climate change was real, sea level rise is real, and we need

to make sure that we were accounting for that as we move forward.


MUNTEAN: The Port Authority is even installing flood gates at station entrances. Seven thousand pounds, they are designed to be deployed quickly

in case of an un-forecasted rush of water. The latest estimate is water levels worldwide will rise by six feet by the end of this century.


DEFLORIO: So I think people see it. I'm not sure that they understand how much worse it's going to get and how quickly.


MUNTEAN: During Hurricane Sandy, floodwaters here entered through the elevator shaft, so the Port Authority reinforced these structures with

aquarium thickness glass. The concern about future floods is so real that the glass stretches nearly 20 feet up.

On the other end of the country, that concern is over the heat that melted some of Seattle's I-5 last month. Shane Underwood research asphalt at North

Carolina State. He says with the world getting hotter, road crews should start laying down asphalt that is more heat resistant.


SHANE UNDERWOOD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY: If temperatures are greater than we presume they would exist when the pavement

was designed. This can happen more frequently.


MUNTEAN: All of this comes at a cost. The Port Authority spent two billion dollars recovering from Hurricane Sandy alone. A new study says climate

change intensified the storm, increasing damage costs by an extra eight billion dollars.


UNDERWOOD: We need to have more climate resilient infrastructure, and we need to stop climate change from getting any worse.


VANIER: And finally, tonight, after threatening to put Australia's Great Barrier Reef on the endangered list, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee now

says that it will not, yet. It is asking Australia for a report on efforts to conserve the reef by February 2022. Australia had engaged in an intense

lobbying effort to prevent the danger listing, calling it the best managed reef in the world, but environmentalists say it's past time. They're

blasting UNESCO for not adding the reef to the list now.

All right. That's it for tonight. Thanks for watching the show. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.