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Netherlands Captain Complains Of Racial Abuse; Maria Sharapova Reaches First Ever French Open Finals; Worldwide Competition Heats Up To Replace Paul the Octopus

Aired June 8, 2012 - 08:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. And we begin in Poland hours before the start of the European championships, reports of racism threaten to overshadow the big kickoff.

The UN speaks out: as the violence continues in Syria despite their efforts at peace.

And we look at the growing threats of jihadist violence in Libya.

Now in just four hours, Euro 2012 kicks off at this stadium in Warsaw, Poland as 16 teams battle to win this trophy. But already racism is threatening to take center stage in one of football's biggest tournaments.

Now the captain of the Dutch national teams says black players in the squad were subjected to monkey chants as the team held an open training session in Krakow. Now Mark Van Bommel told his players to move to the other side of the pitch. And he says a pocket of several hundred fans abused his teammates. He says if that happens during a match he'll ask the referee to take his team off the field. UEFA says that is exactly how it wants players to handle any such incidents rather than simply walk off the pitch themselves.

Now it has become an issue after a number of players expressed worry. The families of two of England's black players have refused to travel. And one of Italy's star strikers threatened to leave the pitch if he encounters any abuse.

Now UEFA president Michel Plantini says that the referees will decide whether to halt or abandon matches not players.


MICHEL PLATINI, UEFA PRESIDENT (through translator): If the referee decides to stop the match then (inaudible) ends there. And he has the instruction, they have the instruction to stop the match if there are problems. And we will do it, because I think that racism is below everything.


LU STOUT: Now The Netherlands captain Mark Van Bommel is said to be unhappy with UEFA's response to what happened on Wednesday. UEFA says it spoke to the Dutch squad and was told there had not been a racist incident. It said UEFA says the fans in Krakow may have been protesting because their city wasn't selected as one of the hosts, or fans didn't want players from other teams playing in their stadium.

Now one journalist put it to Van Bommel that not everyone had heard racist chanting. And he responded with this, you need to open your ears. And if you did hear and don't want to hear it that is even worse.

Now let's go direct to Poland now for more on what is overshadowed the start of the Euros. Becky Anderson is on Warsaw where the first match kicks off later today. And Becky, where does the issue stand now?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, let's be absolutely clear about what we've seen from the vision on Wednesday at the training grounds for the Dutch players. What we saw neither confirmed nor denied effectively those allegations from the Dutch captain. He says a couple of his players were racially abuse. There's been no official complaint from the Dutch FA. UEFA say that they are aware of an isolated incident, they say. And they've always said this, that there is zero tolerance so far as racism is concerned.

They say if they see any other incidents like that, they will reevaluate their procedures so far as these training ground warm-ups are concerned. And let me just add that the Dutch are training at a grounds that the Italians and the English will also be training at, stadium in Krakow -- in the city of Krakow.

We're here in Warsaw. The stadium behind me here will host the opening game this evening between co-hosts Poland and Greece.

I'm joined by the minister for sport and tourism here in Poland today. And we must just address firstly the allegations by the Dutch captain, that of racist slurs against a couple of his players through the training games on Wednesday. Your response.

JOANNA MUCHA, POLAND'S SPORTS AND TOURISM MINISTER: As far as I know this was a small, very small (inaudible) incident, not a racist one. So I'm sure -- and I can -- you can be sure that it is very marginal in Poland. And you've got hooliganism all over the world in the sport. It's -- it won't happen again. If it happens, we will act appropriately.

ANDERSON: Because minister your message to those traveling fans who would like to be here for what should be a football fiesta is simply, what. There are many, many people who are aware or concerned about traveling here to Poland.

MUCHA: Well, my message is you will be safe and you will feel safe in Poland. This is a huge safe and security operation. And we will manage to do it, to being safe.

ANDERSON: You will, then, be at the stadium this afternoon. This has been five years in the making. Of course there were concerns by many people when Poland and Ukraine were awarded this competition about concerns about racism by you say to traveling fans, of course, will be safe. You'll be at the stadium this evening about four hours from now. What do you think the score will be?

MUCHA: I hope we will win 2-1 for Poland. And I hope we'll go farther in this (inaudible).

ANDERSON: They're certainly the underdogs in this tournament, but if the Poles are out here supporting the team, one assumes they'll get a lot of support. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

That's the state of play I think standing here. And do remember the context to all of this, this for UEFA, the organizers of this event, is a $1.6 billion commercial revenue operation. They'll be 150 million eyeballs on what will be a daily diet of football here out of Poland and out of Ukraine, that's a many people as would watch, for example, the Super Bowl. In Ukraine, though, Kristie there are concerns about safety there. And a number of European officials now saying they won't be sending representatives to Ukraine to watch matches, they say. They have concerns about selective justice there.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: And also more on the issue of racism, or allegations of racism on the pitch and in the stadium there in Poland. The Netherlands, will they make an official complaint?

ANDERSON: Yeah. At this point we believe that there has been no official complaint from the Dutch FA. We are expecting to hear a press conference this afternoon from the captain of the team who has made these original allegations after the Wednesday night training session. They -- that press conference will be held in Ukraine, where in fact the Germans -- sorry, the Dutch will be holding their first game. So we'll await to hear more on that. We're expecting that in fact during the game, the opening game here in about four, four-and-a-half hours time.

So at that point, we may learn more. But as I say to confirm at this stage UEFA tells us there has been no official complaint from the Dutch FA, although UEFA does say that they are aware of what they call an isolated incident on Wednesday evening.

LU STOUT: And as the tourism minister of Poland just told in you in that interview just now, it won't happen again.

Becky Anderson reporting, thank you.

Now there is mounting anger and frustration over the crisis in Syria. It dominated meetings with both the UN general assembly and the security council on Thursday. And the violence continues to escalate despite an agreed upon peace plan and sanctions against the regime. Now Ban Ki-Moon expressed his frustration.


BAN KI-MOON, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. Today's report of yet another massacre in al-Qubeir underscores the horrifying reality on the ground. How many more times have we to condemn them and how many ways must we say that we are outraged?


LU STOUT: Now these comments come after the massacre in the small farming village of Qubeir in the western province of Hama. It is reported at least 78 people were killed there on Wednesday. We need to warn you that the images we are about to show you are extremely difficult to watch and are not suitable for children to see.

Now CNN feels that it is important to show edited versions of the images to convey the extent and the brutality of the Syrian crackdown against civilians in opposition areas of the country. Now activists say the victims of the Qubeir massacre included dozens of women and children. And the voice on the video likened them to the innocent victims of the slaughter in Houla two weeks ago.

Now the bodies are wrapped in blankets and white funeral shrouds with ice and cold water to delay decomposition.

Now opposition activists say Syrian government forces are responsible for the massacre. It's a claim that the regime denies.

Now the latest massacres sparked more outrage against President Bashar al-Assad. And with more, we're joined now by Arwa Damon who is monitoring the situation from Beirut. And Arwa, first what are you hearing about UN monitors and they're attempts to reach Qubeir?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well they're actually still trying as far as we are aware to reach that small little village that's really not much more than a cluster of homes to be able to see for themselves, launch their own investigation into what took place. What we have been hearing from the team on the ground. What we also heard at the general assembly yesterday was that the teams that were trying to reach the specific location on Thursday were stopped at checkpoints, turned back from checkpoints. And at least one instance, they were even shot at.

This is just underscoring how difficult it is for these teams to even operate inside Syria to even monitor a cease-fire, never mind the notion of even beginning to implement one. And of course this is causing mounting frustration amongst the activists who really feel as if the international community is not doing everything that it can to try to unit, to bring about some sort of a resolution, because as again we heard underscored at the United Nations yesterday if there is not global unity, or at least if there is not unity amongst the members of the security council, finding a way forward is going to be incredibly difficult.

And as special joint envoy Kofi Annan himself said if there is not some sort of change in the status quo in Syria, that country most certainly is on a direct course towards more sectarian violence, more massacres, and potentially an all-out civil war, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon he called for global unity. And he also says that the Kofi Annan peace plan is still the focus of diplomacy over Syria. And I'm trying to understand why. Arwa, is there any evidence that it's working?

DAMON: There is no evidence at this stage that it's working, Kristie. And in fact, Kofi Annan himself said that the cease-fire is not being implemented. But part of the reasons why so many are still trying to rally behind this six point peace plan and perhaps develop a modified version of it is simply because there is no plan b. There is no alternative if this peace plan is in fact declared dead in the water by Kofi Annan, by the secretary-general of the United Nations.

The other idea that's been floated right now is this notion of a contact group that would include members of the security council plus significant regional players like Iran, Turkey, and perhaps some Gulf nations as well, because they are the key nations that could potentially, should they be able to unite, bring about some sort of a resolution. But that also is going to be an incredibly difficult and challenging task, because the Syrian uprising is not just polarizing people within the nation itself, it is also been polarizing the global stage.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon reporting. Thank you.

And you are watching News Stream. And still ahead, the UN's nuclear watch dog presses Iran for access to a suspected nuclear testing site. And we'll take you to Vienna as the two sides meet.

And in Libya, jihadists are looking for new opportunities. Nic Robertson will investigate the growing threat.


LU STOUT: Now after weeks of argument, Egypt's political parties have settled on a committee to draft a new constitution. The original panel chosen to draw up the new document was tossed out by an administrative court in April after complaints it was dominated by Islamists.

Now Egyptians will also vote for a new president in a run-off election in just over a week's time. And one of Egypt's leading revolutionaries is hoping to overturn a prison sentence in connection to a demonstration held last year. Now she says that the charges against her are an example of what's gone wrong in Egypt since the military rulers took over. She now feels she was wrong to have trusted them.

Ben Wedeman reports.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Asma Mahfous (ph) hardly looks like a street fighter, but her attitude has always been that the battle for change in Egypt must be in the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my campaign to bring me a tent.

WEDEMAN: She's joined a hunger strike/sit-in outside the Egyptian parliament to demand implementation of the so-called political isolation law which outlaws the participation in politics of figures from the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak in particular, Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister who is one of the two candidates for the presidency.

A week before the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution in January of last year, Asma (ph) posted this emotional appeal on Facebook. Her message of dignity and defiance galvanized hundreds of thousands of Egyptians fed up with the oppression of the aging Mubarak regime.

But that was then and this is now. The joy that greeted Mubarak's fall has been replaced by uncertainty and upheaval. Egypt's new rulers, the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces sometimes using methods as brutal if not moreso than the old ruler.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our mistake because we trusted them.

WEDEMAN: While recently traveling abroad, the diminutive Asma (ph) was convicted and sentenced in absentia to a year a year in prison for assaulting a man during a demonstration last year. She's due in court next Tuesday hoping to appeal or overturn the sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are trying like trying (inaudible) and trying to make us very (inaudible).

WEDEMAN: Hers is typical of the story of many of the young firebrands of the Egyptian revolution, initially cheered as idealistic heroes then vilified in the state-run media as trouble makers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no justice in Egypt. And we are -- we will not stop our fight. And we will not (inaudible) we didn't fear people from Mubarak and we will not fear now from them.

WEDEMAN: Given her track record, the authorities may, however, may have reason to fear Asma Mafous (ph).

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.


LU STOUT: And you're with News Stream on CNN, the world's news leader. And still ahead, Libya's new threat as the country moves toward establishing a lasting democracy, who are the groups raising concerns from the inside?


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong you are back watching News Stream.

Now brace for a standoff: Iran is meeting with the UN nuclear watchdog today behind closed doors, but the two sides are already in dispute. But IAEA wants to see inside an Iranian military complex that suspected of housing nuclear weapons research. Iran says the allegations are false. And China has weighed in as well calling on Iran to be flexible and pragmatic.

Now Matthew Chance has been following the story. He joins us now live from London. And Matthew, give us an idea of all the issues being discussed at this meeting?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, this is the sixth time that the IAEA officials have met with representatives of Iran this year, but without many concrete results to show for their efforts. They're talking about first and foremost access to the Parchin military base, which is just outside the Iranian capital Tehran where its suspected that some kind of explosive experiments may have been carried out that could be relevant to development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians, of course, deny that. They are in negotiations intensively to try and allow UN nuclear inspectors into that site, but it is by no means the only issue being discussed. There is a whole raft of concerns and questions that have been raised by the UN's nuclear watchdog regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's very controversial nuclear program.

What the IAEA wants is access to specific sites and to individuals as well who have been associated with the Iranian nuclear program. They're also discussing logistics such as where they might meet, what kind of documents they might share and the sort of nitty gritty of how this kind of cooperation would take place were it allowed.

So it's quite a technical meeting. Expectations -- I have to say I've spoken to officials of the IAEA earlier today, expectations pretty low at this stage to anything really significant is going to come out of the actual meetings taking place today. But they do take place just 10 days before the main nuclear talks between the five permanent members of the security council plus Germany and Iran are expected to resume, this time in the Russian capital Moscow where they really will try and broker some kind of deal for Iran to roll back aspects of its nuclear program, which of course many in the west suspect is hiding some kind of weapons ambition -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So expectations are low at this technical meeting which is a precursor to a much bigger one.

Now Matthew, China has called on Iran to be flexible and pragmatic. What's your read on those words and China's influence?

CHANCE: I think China does have a degree of influence. Of course it wields a veto at the United Nations security council and of course it's one of the countries along with Russia which has provided a degree of diplomatic cover for Iran and if China were to be alienated perhaps it would be much more difficult for Iran to avoid even tighter sanctions than its currently laboring under and possibly may be difficult for it to avoid some kind of UN sanctions, military intervention.

That's not something the Chinese want to see, it's not something the Russians want to see either. But you do get the sense that both Moscow and Beijing are increasingly frustrated with Iran's inability to answer some of the really important questions that have been posed by the UN's nuclear watchdog as to the exact nature of the country's nuclear program. And I think that's what the Chinese are referring to when they say they want Iran to be flexible and pragmatic.

They do want to the country to be open to some kind of solution that would satisfy all the parties, because if they're not then China along with Russia are going to find themselves in a very difficult position and may be, you know, forced with the possibility of having to support even tougher UN sanction against Iran at the security council.

LU STOUT: All right. Matthew Chance reporting. Thank you very much indeed Matthew.

And to Libya now, a country taking steps toward democracy after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, but it is a process some fear could be undermined by a growing threat within the country: that of jihadist groups.

Nic Robertson investigates from the Libyan capital Tripoli.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These men are preparing a rocket propelled grenade for a night time attack in Libya. They claim to be members of a little known group called the Prison of Omar Abdul Rahman brigade. In this video posted to a jihadist websites, the men attack a building they claim is the Red Cross office in Benghazi. CNN cannot verify this is the attack that blasted the relief group's office there last month.

But the same group is now emerging as the main suspect in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, about a day's drive east of the capital here. According to one government official, leaflets left behind by the brigade claim that they were acting in revenge for the U.S. drone strike in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda's number two, Libyan born jihadist Abu Yahya al-Libi. Western interests in the capital here have had their security tightened.

A great concern, especially in eastern Libya, a tiny, isolate groups of al Qaeda flag waving, radical Islamists like these who posted their propaganda video online earlier this year.

Intelligence sources tell CNN that late last year al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri sent senior Libyan jihadist Abdel Basset Azuz to set up a camp in Durna (ph), a few hours drive from Benghazi. He is not the only radical in the area. Sofian bin Qumu, a former GITMO detainee, has also tried to set up jihadist camps outside Durna (ph).

Multiple government sources say they are aware of both Azuz and Qumu and their camps. They say that the powerful tribes who control the area watch over the camps. No one who leaves the camps ever goes back, one source told me. Another said that the tribes have the authority to capture or kill. But all sources say they are happy with the government tactics of not storming the camps. They say that no one in Libya wants al Qaeda.

And it's not just the powerful tribes who keep watch over the camps, one government source told me U.S. drones and other surveillance aircraft monitor the region. The people of Durna (ph) have even complained to officials about it.

The Omar Abdul Rahman brigade is named after the blind Egyptian cleric jailed in the U.S. for his 1993 role in the bombing of the U.S. World Trade Center. Little else about the group is known. Sources say there are some 200 to 300 jihadists associated with the camps here. Of those, they say, perhaps 20 or 30 are real hardcore islamists. The government spokesman says expect arrests soon.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


LU STOUT: Now still to come here on News Stream, after four years of waiting football's European championships are back. A look at the preparation work and the head to the tournament.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream and these are your world headlines.

Now more high level diplomatic meetings are planned for Friday concerning the situation in Syria. The crisis there dominated the agenda at UN meetings on Thursday. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed growing frustration over the continued violence. He'd warned about the danger of Syria falling into a full scale civil war and the catastrophic consequences for the region.

Now the UN's nuclear watchdog is holding new talks with Iran about suspected work on atomic weapons. The IAEA wants access to a site where it believes weapons research may have taken place. Now at talks in Vienna, China's president urged Iran to be flexible. Now Iran has always maintained its nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes only.

Now British prime minister David Cameron will appear before the inquiry into press ethics next Thursday. Mr. Cameron's government has been under fire for its close association with the media since the Levenson inquiry began last year.

And we are counting down to kickoff at the European football championship. Poland and Greece will open the tournament in Warsaw in about three-and-a-half hours. And Pedro Pinto looks at how we got here and what to expect in the week ahead.



PINTO: In April of 2007, UEFA decided to take the European football championship to eastern Europe for the first time. It was a bold move, and one that left many wondering whether Poland and Ukraine would be able to cope with the demands of hosting such a massive international event. Initial fears were somewhat justified as there were severe delays in the construction of stadiums, hotels, airports and highways.

But five years, and over $40 billion later, both host countries are ready, or as ready as they can be. And both UEFA and organizers are confident the tournament will be a success.

MICHEL PLATINI, UEFA PRESIDENT: Yes, they will deliver. We are confident (inaudible), because of the crisis they couldn't build many hotels as they wish, but they will deliver. Yes.

MARCIN HERRA, PRESIDENT, POLAND 2012: And the most important for us and the most worrying for us was to have all the pieces in place just before the tournament, to get to the point you have to have hundreds of decisions on the right time. And whenever you have a small delay then there is the domino effect you can see immediately in your time schedule.

PINTO: There have been other issues both host nations have had to deal with in the countdown to kickoff. The behavior of their fans has been in the spotlight with various reports of racism in and around football stadiums. According to the Never Again Association, an anti-racism campaign group, there were 195 cases of ethnic prejudice at matches in both countries in an 18 month period leading up to the tournament. It is behavior that UEFA say will not be tolerated.

PLATINI: But we change the obligation -- of the power of the referee where in case of racist they can stop the game. That is -- that was a big change. And we support that. And the referee if they think that there is (inaudible) they will stop the game definitely.

PIARA POWAR, EXEC. DIR, FOOTBALL AGAINST RACISM IN EUROPE: In addition to the referee and the actions that they can take, there are a whole raft of other things. We have international observers at every single game, at least two observers. We have a protocol with the UEFA disciplinary guys to make sure that they sanction everything that we can provide evidence for.

So there's quite a lot going on in and around the stadium. We hope to deal with things that happen.

PINTO: As far as the action on the pitch is concerned, here is all you need to know. 16 teams divided into four groups will battle to become European champions. The opening match will be played here at Warsaw's national stadium with a final staged on the 1 of July in Kiev's Olympic stadium. Overall, there will be 31 matches over 24 days played in eight cities.

So who is going to win?

IKER CASILLAS, SPAIN CAPTAIN (through translator): I think this one might be the most difficult of all, because winning international championships in a row is something no one has ever achieved before.

CHRISTIANO RONALDO, PORTUGAL CAPTAIN: To be honest, I think we are in the most difficult group. The first game will be very important against Germany. And afterward we will see what's going on.

ANDREA PIRLO, ITALY MIDFIELDER (through translator): Italy always goes to the Euros to win, even if there is only a slight difference between winning and losing.

PINTO: As far as Italy are concerned, their title hopes could have been affected by an ongoing match fixing investigation which forced one of their players to pull out of the squad. 19 other people were arrested around the country, it's the last thing the Azzurri needed heading into the tournament.

The tournament, which everyone hopes stay clear of controversy and is a success both on and off the pitch.

Pedro Pinto, CNN, Warsaw.


LU STOUT: All right. Let's get more now on the teams to watch. Amanda Davies, excuse me, she always has the answers. She joins us now. Amanda, do Pedro's Portugal have a chance?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORREPSONDENT: This one is a really tough one to call, Kristie. It has to be said, you know, there's all these teams going in and it's a tournament and every team needs a bit of luck to win these major tournaments, but it has to be the facts and the figures and the numbers you'd say probably bad news for Pedro and his Portugal fans. The odds not really in their favor. They're 20 to 1 to win the title.

As you'd expect it's the reigning European world champions Spain who are the favorites there and 11 to 4. But no country has ever won three major tournaments in a row, so a real tough task for them. Germany a second favorite, for the Dutch third. Many think France and Italy are the decent shouts. France, of course, unbeaten in 21 games heading into this tournament after their disappointment last time out in South Africa.

Co-host Poland are 45 to 1. They of course kick off the tournament in just a couple of hours time against Greece in the opening match from group a. Russia against the Czech Republic the other game on the opening day. But over the course of the next three weeks as Pedro said there really are some pretty tasty matches and prospects.

The big ones all in group B, the group that has been dubbed the group of death with Germany, Portugal, and the Netherlands in there with Denmark. Remember it's just two teams from each group that go through to the quarterfinals, the first match-up in group B takes place on Saturday, Germany against Portugal. Defending champions Spain kick off against Italy in Group C on Sunday. That one promises to be a good one.

All the attention here in England on that big match-up against France on Monday. But all these games here, even before the quarterfinals, the semifinals and then of course the decider, the final on July 1st. It promises to be a fantastic tournament and we've got more build up on Euro 2012 special program. Pedro and special guests preview the action on the pitch. And they're going to be taking a look at how preparations have gone for co-hosts Poland and Ukraine. That's on World Sport presents Euro 2012 today at 4:30 p.m. London time.

LU STOUT: All right. Good to hear some tasty matches ahead. And Amanda, Euro 2012 it's not the only story in sports today. What happened in the NBA last night?

DAVIES: It's been -- it was a brilliant Friday, actually, of sport. So many talking points. In terms of the NBA it's going to go all the way in the Eastern Conference final series between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics after game six after LeBron James stepped up to the plate to lead the Heat to a series leveling win, LeBron nearly matched his playoff career high, scoring 45 points as the Heat run away from the Celtics with a 98-79 win. James had a remarkable 45 points, 15 rebound night finishing just four points shy of his all-time playoff high. So it's off to Miami on Saturday for a winner takes all decider in game 7.

I've also got to tell you about some tennis, though. There's not many people giving David Ferrer any hope in the French Open semifinal. He's up against fellow Spaniard and six-time champion Rafael Nadal. It's Ferrer's first grand slam semifinal against a player who has beaten him in 11 of the last 12 meetings.

They have got underway on the Philippe Charier Court. Nadal really didn't have too many problems heading out to a 6-2, 4-1 lead, but the rain has started falling in Paris. So play has been suspended for the moment. The second semifinal follows it. And that one is not a bad match-up either, the world number one Novak Djokovic up against Roger Federer.

Well, the women's final line-up is decided and Maria Sharapova says it's an amazing feeling having finally fulfilled her dream of reaching the final at the French Open. After three semifinals at Roland Garos, the Russian booked her place in the decider with victory over Petra Kvitova and with it she regains the world number one spot.

Sharapova didn't have an easy task, up against the reigning Wimbledon champion, but the Russian won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 to stay on course for the only grand slam title still to elude her. So on Monday, Sharapova will be back on the top of the rankings for the first time since 2008. And that will happen regardless of what happens in the final when she takes on the 25-year-old Italian Sara Errani. The 21st seed caused an upset beating U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in three sets to reach her first grand slam final.

But before you think about writing Sharapova off, consider this, in March and April she won more tournaments than she had in her entire career. And all the victories have been on clay. She's also back on a roll with back to back victories against players ranked in the top 10.

And we've got a great line-up for you in World Sport in about three- and-a-half hours time. We've got the nine time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova joining us live into World Sport. Of course, we'll also be live in Poland with Pedro, so do hope you can join us then.

LU STOUT: Wow a lot ahead. And Martina, she is legend. Great stuff. Amanda Davies, thank you.

And staying on sport what is the forecast for the French Open? Mari Ramos joins us now from the World Weather Center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. She was just telling us play stopped because of the rain. It has been just crazy weather across portions of western Europe including winds up to 80 even 90 kilometers per hour.

Now I want to show you the latest radar picture first of all. And you can clearly see right here that spin in the clouds moving across the UK back over toward Ireland. And then moving across the channel here some scattered thunderstorms and rain that is still moving through here, but this is nothing compared to what they went through yesterday with like I said winds in some cases over 130 kilometers per hour across portions of France and very strong storms that were moving across Belgium even reports of some tornadoes.

And notice now the heaviest rain is actually back over here across southern parts of Germany coming out of Switzerland and into Austria. So this is going to be the central part of Europe here is going to be the area to watch for severe weather.

Now as far as the forecast, of course we're heading into a big weekend in Paris for the French Open so I want to go ahead and give you a bit of an extended forecast. Now on Friday we're looking, which is today, about a 50 percent chance of rain. We've already seen some of that happen. It diminishes significantly as we head into Saturday with only a 20 percent chance of a passing shower or two with a temperature about 19 degrees.

And on Sunday, that's when the big rain chance returns. And it's going to be touch and go over the next couple of days. I think Saturday will definitely be our best day. And later tonight I think it should be drying out as well.

Mentioning a lot of sports events, of course for the Euro 2012 the first match between Poland and Greece we're looking for some scattered storms also to be moving through around game time. And the wind between 50 to 20 that's not going to be that big of a deal. Temperatures pretty comfortable, about 22 degrees.

Now we are looking for some scattered rain showers, particularly in the morning hours. So still the possibility of some rain showers also for the second game between Russia and the Czech Republic. So I know you sports fans want to hear all that kind of stuff.

So back over to this nasty weather across Europe. There you see it, some of those reports of severe weather, but I want to show you some other severe weather. First of all, let's go ahead and talk about winter. Check out these pictures from New Zealand. It had been snowing significantly across some of these areas. Look at that, trying to make a stop there on this train in the snow. People are kind of laughing about it. You hear in the background. But I think that's more excitement than anything else. What do you do when something like this happens, right? You just got to keep going. But it is very dangerous, because sometimes it can cause derailment.

I want to show you show you some more severe weather, this time Australia. Look at the damage that was reported near Perth. It wasn't an extremely strong tornado, probably an EF-1, but you can see a lot of the damage there.

And last but not least -- there you see the spinning very quickly right here. This is a super cell thunderstorm. Kristie, graduations are supposed to be unforgettable. Guess what these kids are going to tell their grandkids later, right? They were out in the open and this huge storm started blowing through. There was a lot of cloud to ground lightning, extremely dangerous conditions to be outside. But guess what, they wanted to graduate. That funnel cloud that you see in the background, ooh, gosh, did not touch the ground. I bet you those kids that are moving away are the smartest ones in that class because the other ones just stayed there.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: That's incredible. My goodness. What an epic graduation day for all those kids out there.

Mari Ramos, thanks for the share. Have a great weekend.

You're watching News Stream. And still ahead it is China's leading search engine, and she is the financial brains behind it. Our Leading Women series will make the introduction. Stick around.


LU STOUT: Welcome back. And to our leading women series now and a highly successful business woman who believes in local know how.


LU STOUT: Inside China's biggest internet search company Baidu and up close with its chief financial officer, the no nonsense executive joined Baidu four years ago after more than a decade at General Motors. It didn't take her long to fit in.

JENNIFER LI, CFO, BAIDU: This is a company about technology. And the technology really changes people's lives. And I fell in love with it. And it's just in my blood in how I feel.

LU STOUT: A turnaround for a woman who once resisted a career in IT, opting for one in corporate finance. Now she has her hands in both.

LI: Gender is not a factor when it comes to success in the professional setting. It is your attitude towards work. It's about passion for excellence. It is about determination.

LU STOUT: The exec who commands the number two spot at this $40 billion company is Jennifer Li.

In the heart of Beijing is an internet Giant referred to as China's Google. With more than 16,000 employees, hundreds of millions of users, Baidu, not Google, rules internet searches in China.

LI: Robin (ph) created the company about 12 years ago. And so all the way has built really the biggest Chinese language search engine in the world.

LU STOUT: Baidu CFO, Jennifer Li, is referring to her boss Robin Li who after getting his start in California's Silicon Valley pulled up stakes and came home to start Baidu.

Today, Li, no relation to Jennifer Li, is one of the richest men in the country. And his search engine is king. Google pulled out of mainland China in 2010 over claims of government censorship, leaving the field wide open for Baidu.

Jennifer Li is quick to point out Baidu's success is not by default.

LI: I think we need to put things in perspective. At the time Google exited, which had a market, Baidu already commanded over 70 percent of the market and Google was about 20. You know, search engine itself by far has created tremendous access to information for people.

LU STOUT: And with more than 1 billion potential internet users in this market, Baidu's phenomenal growth is likely to increase. And so, too, its number of employees.

LI: When I joined the company, we had about 6,000. Now we have 16,000 people. So, you know, the company throughout the past four years has grown tremendously.

LU STOUT: Which has the company searching for new software to manage its human resources. On this day, Li is listening to a presentation by the company Accenture.

LI: You know what I don't want to see is (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

I'm the CFO here, but you know I'm also looking after HR functions, marketing functions, it's very dynamic typically during the day. The day goes by very fast.

That's my family.

LU STOUT: It all adds up to roughly 10 hours a day at the office says this mother of two.


I love my kids. So I would like to spend more time with them.

I lost my job too. And, you know, every single minute here is well spent.


And then I typically leave the weekend to the kids.

LU STOUT: Li says she's figured out how to balance work and family life and that the company culture of Baidu and China overall makes it possible for women to excel at the highest levels.

LI: I feel China is very open-minded when it comes to women executives. The society is very open. And I feel many companies create a very level playground when it comes to employment.

I think really coming to become a female executive is more about what it takes to become an executive less so about being a female.

LU STOUT: In the coming weeks we'll bring you more with Jennifer Li, including some tough love she'll offer women.

LI: Gender in the work environment should not be a factor when it comes to how far you can go. Your fate is in your own hand. You -- I can not complain the environment, how other people should be treating me and giving me opportunities. Oftentimes, it is what you do and how you earn those opportunities.


LU STOUT: Baidu's Jennifer Li there.

Now he was the World Cup psychic who stunned soccer fans, but can any other clairvoyant creature live up to his reputation? We'll take a look at some of Paul the Octopus's potential successors for Euro 2012.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now if you're hoping to predict the results of Euro 2012 forget probability or track records, instead look no further than your household pet, that's because the latest craze seems to be in getting animals to pick out the winners, after all it's worked before. Jonathan Mann reports.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remember Paul, the seemingly psychic Octopus? During the last World Cup he won worldwide attention by correctly predicting the winner of eight matches in a row, including the final. The underwater phenom retired after the cup and sadly died a few months later. But now there's a bevy of beasts looking to take Paul's place for Euro 2012. Among them, a pair of dragon fish in Singapore.

Big Watt and Little Watt made their picks for Thursday match between Poland and Greece. The big fish chose the food canister indicating a draw, while the little guy picked Poland. The more accurate of the two will get to pick the finals while it's feared the loser could wind up as sushi.

A Polish pachyderm also went with the home team. This is Sita, the Krakow zoo's enormous oracle. They say an elephant never forgets, but how is she at forecasting a football match? Presented with three melons to choose from Sita (ph) pointed to Poland. Her handlers say she was right about another big match earlier this year. FILIP SZATANIK, SPOKESMAN, CITY OF KRAKOW (through translator): We tested Sita in many cases. We did it starting from the champion's league game on May 19. She was right then. And we hope she isn't wrong this time.

MANN: In the Ukrainian capital Kiev, a big pig name Kryak (ph) is trying to claim the spotlight. The allegedly telepathic porker may not be pretty but in a sense he's already a winner. Regardless of his record on the pitch organizers promised to keep Kyrak (ph) out of the local butcher shop.

And not far way in the Ukrainian town of Karkiev (ph), local officials introduced Fred the Ferret. They said their fuzzy football forecaster is cuter than the rest. We'll have to wait and see about the accuracy of the animals in their push to replace Paul. We'll keep you posted.

Jonathan Mann, CNN, Atlanta.


LU STOUT: And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.