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Aired July 9, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight on Connect the World: killed in cold blood, an Afghan woman executed at the hands of the Taliban. It's shocking picture live in Afghanistan almost a decade after the west promised change.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: Tonight, almost 11 years on and tens of billions of dollars spent, what really changed for Afghanistan's women?

Also this hour, the stage is set for a showdown in Egypt. The outcome to decide whether it's the president or the military really calling the shots.



ANDERSON: With this win you dash the hopes of an entire British nation, you know that. How does that feel?

ROGER FEDERER, 2012 WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: Sad. I didn't feel good about it.


ANDERSON: I speak with Roger Federer on his record breaking win and breaking the heart of millions of Britons.

First up this evening, a woman crouches on the ground as a man fires on her at pointblank range while a crowd looks on and cheers wildly. A horrifying execution raising new concerns about the fate of women in Afghanistan.

Let's begin with a report tonight by Mohammed Jamjoom. We warn you it has disturbing images so you may wish to turn away. We are including them, because we feel they are an important part of the story, of course, it must be told.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: A burka-clad woman sitting on the ground awaiting her execution. The man with the rifle is just a few feet away. A scene so disturbing we stopped it here.

He begins shooting, firing again and again. She slumps over after the third shot, but her executioner isn't finished. In all, he fires nine times.

Around him dozens of men on a hillside cheer. "God is great," they chant.

This amateur video was taken in Afghanistan in a village just north of the capital Kabul. Afghan government officials are blaming the Taliban. They believe the woman was killed because of a dispute between two Taliban commanders who had some kind of a relationship with her, that in order to save face they accused her of adultery then swiftly executed her.

For villagers in the area there's outrage.

"What do they want to prove by this action," says this man? "It just shows their brutality and injustice. We want rule of law."

ABDUL SALIM, VILLAGER (through translator): If our mother and sister watch this video they will be shocked and will be scared. This is against the law.

JAMJOOM: While this public execution may be the latest and among the most shocking example of violence suffered by women in Afghanistan, it is not an isolated case.

A 2012 Human Rights Watch report found that nearly nine out of 10 Afghan women suffer physical, sexual, or psychological violence or force marriage at least once in their lifetimes.

Afghan lawmaker and women's rights activist Fawzia Koofi wept as she watched the video of the execution.

FAWZIA KOOFI, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think there should be zero tolerance about such things and about the silence of government. And this happens a few kilometers away from Kabul. I think we will have to do seriously something about this.

JAMJOOM: Afghan government officials are vowing to hunt down those responsible.

SEDIQ SEDIQI, AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: We are going to investigate thoroughly into this video. And we will find those culprits and those Taliban who are behind this act of violence.

JAMJOOM: But despite the reassurances, many women are still fearful. And there are renewed concerns about what the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops will mean to women who regained basic rights of education and voting after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

SHAJAN YAZDANPARAST, PARWAN HEAD OF WOMEN AFFAIRS (through translator): We have had a very bad experience with Taliban in the past several years. Everyone is in shock and scared that, god forbid, that the Taliban returns what will happen.

JAMJOOM: But analysts warn the Taliban don't have a monopoly on violence toward women, that in a deeply conservative culture women are constantly at risk and the specter of draconian justice is sadly part of the reality many live with every day.

Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


ANDERSON: Well later I'm going to be discussing the growing concerns of the rise of Afghan women with two special guests for you. Saira Shah is a filmmaker. He slipped into Afghanistan 11 years ago to document rights abuses, a seminal documentary at that time. And Ronald Neumann is a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

First, though, some facts for you to consider. Afghanistan's constitution gives women the same rights as men, but is that the reality? Well, women gave the right to vote in 1964, but female politicians still face threats and attacks from the Taliban and from other groups.

Amnesty International says more than 2.5 million girls are in school huge improvement, yet almost all still drop out before the 10th grade.

There have been a massive increase in access to health care, but Afghanistan still has some of the world's highest rates of infant and child mortality.

And tribal law still rules many parts of the country. Women are forced into marriage and honor killings are common.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds, hundreds of women are in Afghan prisons for so-called moral crimes like pre-marital sex, even though some of these women are victims of rape or domestic violence.

And just months before the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan filmmaker Saira went undercover to document harsh reality of life for Afghan women. CNN aired that documentary called "Beneath the Veil" back in 2001. A brief clip for you now, a young girl describing what happens to her mother.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Taliban told my mother to leave the house because they are going to make it their headquarters. My mother cried and pleaded with them. She said, "you have taken my house and (inaudible), make sure I take my children in the snow." And then they shot her.


ANDERSON: Afghanistan back in 2001.

Well, what has really changed for women since that time? I spoke with Saira earlier on and former U.S. ambassador Ronald Neumann. And I began by asking Saira for her response to what is the latest shocking video.


SAIRA SHAH, AUTHOR & FILMMAKER: Well, some of it is eerily similar. It's true. I mean, we started "Beneath the Veil" with footage of a secret film by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan which showed a woman being executed under similar circumstances. The difference was that it was in the public football stadium and that is I suppose the difference between the situation now and the situation then, that that was under Taliban rule when the government was carrying out -- the government such that it was -- was carrying out these outrageous.

It's still going on in Afghanistan. Obviously the Taliban aren't in power at the moment.

ANDERSON: Should the west be talking to the Taliban?

SHAH: I think the answer has to be yes ostensibly because there has to be a certain amount of horse trading going on. You really need some kind of government that is going to reflect all the forces within Afghanistan.

But having said that, I did think it's almost impossible to pull this one off.

ANDERSON: Ambassador, I hate to do this to you, but given your position in the past in Afghanistan, given the amount of money, the multibillion dollars in aid that is being spent in Afghanistan, which in a position that you've been in in the past you must have been responsible for sort of negotiating its spend. You must feel disappointed at best and responsible at worst, surely, for the situation that we see in the country today.

RONALD NEUMANN, FRM. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: We've done a lot, but we're very late in the day. I feel badly about that, because some of the things I thought we needed to do we didn't do. And I'm sure some of the things I did didn't work.

That said, I agree women -- I'm an ex-ambassador, out of government. I agree it's going to be very hard to project the unambiguous commitment that I think was necessary. I'm simply saying I think that's the name of the game now. And we are talking about negotiations. It's good to negotiate, something might happen. But you have to understand that that is a parallel course while you fight and work on building the state. If you go in with a desperate view that I must have an agreement like walking into the rug bazaar and saying it's the prettiest carpet I've ever seen I must have it what's your best price you're going to pay an extraordinary amount for that carpet. So if you approach this with desperation you're going to fail.

ANDERSON: Saira, is Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, a supporter of women and women's rights?

SHAH: I think that the main enemy of women and women's rights in Afghanistan at the moment is -- are several things. I think it's corruption that is preventing women from having access to the kinds of (inaudible) they should have. It's traditional -- many traditional values, it's a terrible (inaudible) -- sorry, (inaudible) for many politicians, including Hamid Karzai, to try to keep a very, very traditional population on the same side as -- in urban areas you've got women who really are educated as well you can find anywhere and they clearly want to progress the role of women in Afghanistan. And the biggest enemy is this video has probably showed, are the lurking forces of extremism who are waiting to take advantage of any falter (inaudible).

ANDERSON: Finally ambassador, do you fear that the sort of video that we've seen surfaced over the past 48 hours is not an isolated incident and that we -- we'll see more of that going forward?

NEUMANN: Oh, I think that's entirely possible. I think if your standard is perfection or failure, then we don't have perfection. We do have progress. I agree with everything Saira just said. And all those things need work and now hard work.


ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World here on CNN. Still to come tonight, boiling for a showdown. Is Egypt's new president on a collision course with the country's powerful military? We're going to be live for you in Cairo shortly.

Fighting back the tears as the war crimes trial against Ratko Mladic is reopened. An emotional first witness did his testimony.

And ping pong championship like you've never seen before. The 80- year-old showing you that you're never too old for sport.

All that and much more when Connect the World continues.


ANDERSON: And a quarter past nine in London, you're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Now tonight a power struggle escalating between Egypt's new president and the military. And Morsi is Egypt's first freely elected civilian president insisting parliament will be in session on Tuesday. The country's highest court isn't happy about that. It declared only hours ago that its decision dissolving parliament back in June is, quote, final. And right to have the chamber surrounded.

That has put protests back on the agenda. The Muslim Brotherhood is calling for a million man demonstration tomorrow, Tuesday, in Cairo's Tahrir Square. I'm going to get you to Egypt's capital just a little later in the show (inaudible).

A look, though, before that at some of the other stories connecting our world tonight.

And the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is said to have agreed to approach, and I quote, approach ending the violence in the country. After meeting with the UN special envoy Kofi Annan. The two met in Damascus on Monday to discuss the situation. Annan brokered a six point peace plan, you'll remember, in March which is not achieved its goal of ending the bloodshed. In an interview that aired over the weekend, Mr. al-Assad maintained his stance that armed terrorists are responsible. He also criticized the United States.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: It's part of the conflict. They give an umbrella and political support to those (inaudible) to create (inaudible).


ANDERSON: The EU finance minister is in Brussels as we speak to discuss giving Spain another year to reach its deficit goals. Ministers are attempting to put into action an agreement reached by EU leaders 10 years ago -- 10 years, 10 days ago -- feels like 10 years ago -- 10 days ago that will allow bailout funds to be used in stabilizing bonds markets. And meanwhile, yields on 10 year Spanish government debt rose above that crucial 7 percent mark. I think the level is unsustainable, at least in the long-term.

U.S. President Barack Obama asking congress for a one year extension of tax cuts that benefit the middle class. A full share of tax breaks are set to expire at the end of this year. And the president wants to extend them for Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and said wealthy Americans need to pay more.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need policies that grow and strengthen the middle class, policies that help create jobs, that make education and training more affordable, that encourage businesses to start up and create jobs right here in the United States. So that's why I believe it's time to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, to expire.


ANDERSON: Officials from the Republican candidate Mitt Romney's campaign are blasting what Obama said as bad policy, saying Obama's plan will do nothing to improve the economy.

Well, war crimes trial against former Bosnian-Serb commander Ratko Mladic has reopened at The Hague and an emotional first witness described how Bosnia Herzegovina to ethnic groups lived in peace before its brutal war erupted. And Mladic faces 11 charges, including genocide.

Atika Schubert tells us more about Monday's hearing.


ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian-Serb army faced his first witness today. Elvedin Pasic. He was 14-years-old in 1992 when Mladic's army advanced on a small Muslim village in Bosnia. He described to the court how he fled with his father and a group of 200 villagers, mostly men.

ELVEDIN PASIC: I think it was around midnight when the group suddenly stopped and we were instructed to just hush, hush. And I remember my dad, he was in front of me, and my uncle was behind me so we couldn't move and they're like the Serbs are close. We're very close to the Serbs. Don't move. Don't make any sounds. That's when the firing and the bullets started flying.

SCHUBERT: Mladic seen here with his troops is accused of masterminding the army campaign to cleanse Bosnia of Croats and Bosnian Muslims, including the Srebrenica massacre in which about 8,000 people were executed and the siege of Sarajevo that lasted more than three years and killed 10,000.

Pasic described to the court how Bosnian-Serb soldiers separated him from his father.

PASIC: They all (inaudible) all the women and children to get up. And at first I didn't want to get up, because I was afraid to separate from my dad. And he told me to get up. I told him, no, I don't want to go without you. And my uncle insisted and says get up. You will survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what happened to your father?

PASIC: There's no doubt in my mind that they were all killed.

SCHUBERT: During the trial, Mladic appeared to wipe his eyes, but it's hard to know if he was wiping away tears.

Atika Schubert, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared on Monday a national day of mourning following devastating floods that have killed nearly 200 people. Flood waters surged up to seven meters in some areas creating what witnesses called a wall of water and destroying 5,000 homes. Authorities have reportedly launched an investigation over whether officials were negligent in failing to warn residents that flooding was possible.

The former captain of England's national football team John Terry appeared in court today on charges of racially abusing another player. The allegations stem from a match last year. Terry admitted to the court that he'd used foul language against Anton Ferdinand, but said it wasn't racial abuse. That case continues.

Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes signed a divorce settlement. Holmes' attorney told CNN, I quote, "the case has been settled and the agreement signed." In a joint statement released earlier the pair said they were working together to settle custody of their six-year-old daughter. The movie stars were married for five-and-a-half years.

We are going to take a very short break here on Connect the World. When we come back the agony and the ecstasy: Wimbledon champion Roger Federer tells me how it feels to have dashed the hopes of an entire nation.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. You're watching Connect the World live from London. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Roger Federer enjoying his first day as a seven-time Wimbledon champion. His win against Britain's Andy Murray on Sunday of course puts him in an elite group of just three tennis players to hold that title. His triumph may have crushed a nation's dreams for now at least, but the star is confident that Murray fans will one day be cracking open the champagne.


FEDERER: It feels great, you know. I couldn't be more happy that it all worked out yesterday. Now looking back I'm happy we were able, not just myself, but we were able to play such a great final with Murray because there was so much on the line for both of us, a difficult day all around, you know, starting outdoors, finishing indoors and then the occasion. So it was always going to finish in tears from either one of us. And it actually did for both of us. I was a very emotional as well sharing the moment with family as friends as well.

ANDERSON: With this win do you dash the hopes of an entire British nation, you know that. How does that feel?

FEDERER: Bad. I didn't feel good about it. And I was disappointed for Andy. And -- but I think his emotions were nice to see, because it showed he dearly cares about tennis and how much he would like to win a grand slam. And that's why I think he's going to make it.

But it did feel bad, you know, crashing maybe many people's dreams here in this country. But I am convinced that Andy will win grand slams.

ANDERSON: We'll get over it, I promise you.

All right, moving on. You're twin girls were less than a year old the last time you won a major. It must have been marvelous to have them here yesterday at Wimbledon.

FEDERER: Yes, because I never pictured myself in 2003 winning one for the first time that one day I'll come back as a dad and they'll see me lift the trophy. It's completely, I don't know, an amazing situation to be in. And I knew that when I was going to win that my wife was going to bring the kids out and I was going to see them with the trophy and it was too good to be true and it was just another amazing moment in my career, but in my life actually as a father as well.

ANDERSON: You're just shy of your 31st birthday. Is 30 the new 20 for you? And how are you keeping so fit? Tennis experts tell me that you are playing some of the best tennis of your life. And if you have a weakness in the past it might have been, for example, your drop shot. You're even playing that well these days.

FEDERER: No, things are going well for me. And Serena also won, right. And she's 30-years-old as well, even though with women you don't mention ages. But it's out there. And it's public. But it's true, I mean, we have actually -- the 30 year olds are having a very good time because my generation of players were very, very strong 10 years ago. And to see Serena do so well as well I think is inspiring as well.

So it's good times and maybe it is the new 20. But I tell you, when I turned 30 last year I told everyone I'm so happy I'm 30 and not 20 for some reason. But I might be mistaken, it might be great to be 20 too.

ANDERSON: In less than 20 days Wimbledon will host the Olympic tennis tournament. You would be 34 in Rio. So is this the last time that you think you can realistically win an Olympic singles?

FEDERER: Yeah. I mean, this is going to be my best chance, I would think, particularly with me now winning Wimbledon just before. Even though I was world number one in Athens and also in Beijing. So I had to -- you know, a lot of heartbreak there as well, not coming through. But I did get Olympic gold in doubles in Beijing, which was an amazing dream cone true for me. And I think actually takes some pressure of this Olympics coming up now here at Wimbledon.

And actually as we speak banners are going up behind us, you know. And the Olympic spirit is already kicking in here. So I'm very excited to be coming back.

And Rio, who knows what's going to happen. Health will be tight. Family. There's so many moving parts here. But this is always a big occasion and a big moment for tennis.

ANDERSON: I know your wife is a tennis player. She was very, very good herself as you are. The girls, have they picked up a racket yet?

FEDERER: They have picked it up and then dropped it down again. They -- probably a minute right now of tennis and then they get bored of it. And I don't blame them. I guess I was the same. I don't know. But they love different stuff then tennis right now, that's for sure.


ANDERSON: Charming, delightful man he is. Roger Federer for you this evening.

Still to come on this show, Egypt's new president may be standing shoulder to shoulder with the country's generals but they are not seeing eye to eye. We're going to show you why out of Cairo this evening.

And the documentary which will make you think again about what it means to be old. We're doing a lot of age stuff this evening. But tonight we talk to the 80-year-old star of the movie Ping Pong. That after this.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Hello. These are the latest world news headlines on CNN.

The US stepping into Egypt's escalating power struggle, asking Cairo to respect democratic principles. This followed a decision by Egypt's new president to reinstate parliament, a move seen as a challenge to the military council, which suspended the assembly last month. President Mohamed Morsi has called lawmakers to attend a Tuesday session.

Special UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan met with Syrian president Bashar al Assad in Damascus and said they had agreed on, and I quote, "an approach to end the violence in Syria." He didn't offer details. Annan later traveled to Tehran to discuss the crisis with Iranian officials.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai calls it "disgusting" and "unforgivable." He's ordered a manhunt for Taliban members involved in the public execution of a 22-year-old woman, seen here. She was accused of adultery and shot at point-blank range.

A former captain of England's national football team, John Terry, appeared in court today on charges of racially abusing another player. CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance has been covering the trial from Westminster Magistrate's court.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the courtroom here in central London has been hearing the kind of offensive language that may be commonplace on the football pitch, but I think you very rarely hear uttered in such a formal environment as this.

John Terry, the former England soccer captain and Chelsea skipper, one of the most high-profile players in the world, is accused of racially abusing another player, Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers in a Premier League match last year.

Terry is accused of calling Mr. Ferdinand black, but using the term in conjunction with sexually explicit swear words that the prosecution says amounts to racial abuse. Terry admits saying the phrases in question, but denies they were meant as a racial attack.

It's very important, all of this, because racism is seen as an increasingly unacceptable part of soccer, not just here in England, but around the world. John Terry has already been stripped of his England captaincy pending the outcome of this trial. The English football association making it clear it won't tolerate racism either from supporters on the terraces or from its players.

The fact that a trial is taking place here at all, I think, underlines how -- how seriously the British legal system takes allegations of racial abuse. Terry faces a maximum fine of 2,500 pounds, nearly $4,000, if he's found guilty.

Many people, now, around the world, watching to see the outcome -- a verdict expected by the end of this week -- and to see what impact the outcome may have on the career of this extremely high-profile soccer star.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Those are your headlines this hour. Back to Egypt for you, where the country's new president and its generals appear to be setting the state for a showdown -- at least that's one way of looking at it -- Tuesday. Journalist Mohamed Fahmy joins me, now, live on the line from Cairo. Firstly, should we expect to see Parliament sit Tuesday?

MOHAMED FAHMY, JOURNALIST (via telephone): Yes, actually the session was supposed to start at 12:30 PM, but I just got off the phone with the Freedom and Justice Party, and it is now starting at 10:00 AM in the morning.

And the military guarding the building has left already, and now the police are just guarding the Parliament Building. The military just issued its first comment since President Mohamed Morsi called the Parliament in defiance of the council.

The statement basically stated that it's move to dissolve Parliament last month was only to obey a court ruling. And the statement added that they are confident that all institutions of state will respect the constitution and affirm the importance of respecting the law and the constitution to protect the fate.

Now, this statement by the military, Becky, is viewed by many experts I've spoken with here today as the military basically waiving any responsibility and avoiding any confrontation that may happen tomorrow. Becky?

ANDERSON: Right. And should we expect confrontation tomorrow, perhaps inside this Parliament Building and, indeed, outside? The Muslim Brotherhood, of course, calling for a million-man march.

FAHMY: Well, actually, tomorrow, the administrative court will see 25 cases that were brought against President Morsi's decision, and they may actually overrule the president's decision. And this may cause some protests on the street.

And as we know, the Muslim Brotherhood have called for a million-man march tomorrow in support of the president's decision. There has also been one case that has been brought against Morsi himself at the administrative court asking for the toppling of the president.

Now, many people are not happy with this decision. Legal experts I've spoken to take it as an insult to the judicial system in Egypt that the president has overruled the higher constitutional court.

ANDERSON: All right, we're going to leave it there. We than you very much, indeed. Your reporter out of Cairo, Egypt, tonight.

So, who is calling the shots in Egypt today? Good question still. Here's a breakdown of who runs what.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF, led by Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi controls the budget, foreign policy, and all matters of defense and national security. After dissolving Egypt's parliament, SCAF also had legislative power and can veto articles of a new constitution.

So, what does that leave for Egypt's new president? Well, Mr. Morsi has control of the day-to-day running of the government. He also has the power to appoint government officials, name ambassadors to foreign countries, and grant pardons. Things, though, may change after we see this Parliament re-sit tomorrow if, indeed, we do.

So, is a confrontation building between Egypt's civilian president and the country's generals? Just before the show, I spoke to actor and film producer Amr Waked from Cairo.

You may know some of his films, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and "Syriana." He's also produced a film, "The Winter of Discontent," dedicated to those who died ousting Hosni Mubarak. He offered me a rather nuanced take on what is happening right now in Egypt. Have a listen to this.


AMR WAKED, ACTOR AND FILM PRODUCER: I think in the next few days, we'll see if there are other rules that confirm that it is a confrontation with the interests of the military, or it is actually an arrangement altogether.

ANDERSON: If it were an arrangement, what would your response be?

WAKED: Of course, that's not going to be very beneficial for the revolution, since the inception -- since it began. It's always been SCAF and the Muslim Brothers together. Finding an equilibrium where they both have their interests preserved at the expense of what the revolution came out to have, freedom and social justice and to fight corruption.

ANDERSON: The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a Million Man Protest Tuesday. Out of interest, will you be attending that?

WAKED: I think I'd rather wait and see. I am very concerned on the motive behind such a decision, if it is going to be a decision to enhance the powers of the Muslim Brothers, or if it's going to be a decision that pushes the revolution to the right directions.

And I think in the next few days, if there other moves that are confrontational and revolutionary, then it will prove to me a move that is away from the narrow interests of the Muslim Brothers and it could be a move that is very beneficial for the revolution.

ANDERSON: You were in the thick of the protests some 18 months ago. My sense tonight is that you are reserving judgment about what happens next, and I get a hint of concern from you.

WAKED: I'm -- I'm confused, to be honest. It is quite complicated and confusing why should something like this happen and why should there be an arrangement behind that? That's also difficult to read.

ANDERSON: Is Egypt on the path to democracy, so far as you are concerned, tonight?

WAKED: I believe it is. I believe Egypt is on the path of democracy since February 11th. It might -- it might be slow, it might be taking some time, but I think we are learning from our mistakes.


ANDERSON: Amr Waked for you this evening. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN with me, Becky Anderson. When we come back, they're never to old to go for gold. Meet some of the top ping pong players in the world. Do stay with us.


ANDERSON: One of the fastest men on Earth, at least behind the wheel, has helped bring the Olympic flame closer to London today. Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton was among the torch bearers on day 52 of the relay, which will culminate in just less than 20 days with the lighting of the cauldron at the Olympic Park.

Lewis Hamilton may well have a spring in his step, but he'll be doing well to keep pace with these next stars, the octogenarians of the new documentary, "Ping Pong." The film follows a group of pensioners who are proving that you are never too old for gold.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Three thousand five hundred players, all fiercely competitive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This old gal should -- I don't care how good she is, I should get her. She can't move.

ANDERSON: All over 80 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you participating in this competition?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not that old!

ANDERSON: The film "Ping Pong" follows eight pensioners as they aim for gold in the 2010 World Table Tennis Championships in Mongolia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live matches don't always go to the stronger or fitter man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.

ANDERSON: And that is certainly true of former world champion Terry Donlon. Working with asbestos many years ago has reduced the 83-year-old's lung capacity to 40 percent. Not only does he battle to breathe, he's also survived two recent bouts of cancer.

ANDERSON (on camera): How would you, Terry, describe the battle between body and mind?

TERRY DONLON, PING PONG CHAMPION: I've always put it, not because I've been ill, that the mind can control the body. I know it sounds silly, because it will never control the cancer. But at least it controls my body. And that says, yes, it's doing it, and it'll do it.

ANDERSON: So, when you fell ill, for example, in China, you kept going.


ANDERSON: That's your mind, is it? Because at that stage, you probably, on reflection, know that you should've stopped.

DONLON: I should've been on the floor, shouldn't I? I should've been out for the count. But no, you just keep going.

ANDERSON: What did you think when you saw what was going on in China?

SYLVIA ANDREWS, STAR, "PING PONG": Well, he's got a strong will to win. I play balls that I couldn't care less whether they win or lose, but he really does want to be the best. But I don't remember. It's just different nature, isn't it? I'd rather be like me, because I think you put yourself under a lot of pressure being like him.

DONLON: No such thing as pressure.

ANDERSON: There's no such thing as pressure, he says. Really?

DONLON: There's no such thing as pressure.

ANDERSON: What is it that you love so much about ping pong?

DONLON: I think it's -- I think it's because of the friends you make all over the years and all over the world, different friends.

ANDERSON: Yes, but you want to beat these guys, right? Each and every time.

DONLON: Oh, you've got your -- I mean, he's your enemy, isn't he?

ANDERSON (voice-over): It's the determination that filmmakers Hugh and Anson Hartford found in each of the pensioners they interviewed.

ANSON HARTFORD, DIRECTOR, "PING PONG": What became very clear was that your body does take a battering, but it's your mind that takes the battering most, that you have to -- and if you can get on top of that, then you'll be in as good a shape as you can be.

ANDERSON (on camera): You've been privy to the competition in the Veterans' Olympics. How do you think the events compare to London 2012?

HUGH HARTFORD, DIRECTOR, "PING PONG": I think the gamesmanship is the same. I think the ball not move quite as fast, but I think the tactics, the sportsmanship, the competition is -- it's all there, it really is all there. And the stakes. Maybe the stakes are a bit higher in our film.

ANDERSON: Do you wish that you were 20 years old now and were competing?

DONLON: I'm 83 going on 41. That's in my mind. The only thing I want is somebody out there with a magic wand can wave it across the air and let me breathe better so I can still play when I'm 95.


ANDERSON: And he really means it, I promise you. Terry Donlon. Amazing.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, glistening in the sun, how a Green Pioneer is turning a desert into a powerful source of energy. This is CONNECT THE WORLD, stay with us.


ANDERSON: All right. In a 2006 -- or back in 2006, I should say, a social activist arrived in the Arava Desert in Israel and was hit by a wall of heat. That visit, let me tell you, sparked a project aimed at turning a dry land into a sea of energy. Elise Labott has our first Green Pioneer in what is a week's special series. Have a look at this.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A social activist from Boston turned Green Pioneer, Yosef Abramowitz's vision is to harness the sun's energy.

YOSEF ABRAMOWITZ, CO-FOUNDER, ARAVO POWER COMPANY: These deserts are a source of inspiration throughout history, and it's what has inspired, I think, our -- really, mission, to bring solar power to Israel and to the world.

LABOTT: The sun's journey over this valley follows the path the Bible says the Jewish people wandered in exile. Today, it glistens with more than 16,000 solar panels, generating 9 million kilowatt hours of solar energy per year.

ABRAMOWITZ: This land was made for solar power. There's one or two other places on the planet that's better, like the Sahara, but the difference is, the Sahara doesn't have a national grid running right through it. And so, this may actually be, for practical purposes, the best place on the planet to produce commercial-scale solar power, because you can gather it and you can use it immediately.

LABOTT: After battling Israeli bureaucracy for five years, it took Abramowitz just five months to build the first commercial solar field in the Middle East.

The unlikely home to the $150 million project? A kibbutz, where Abramowitz landed 30 years ago as a young volunteer. Even then, Kibbutz Ketura was known for its environmental innovation. He returned on a family visit several years ago. Feeling the sun's unrelenting power again after so many years, Yosef had an inspiration. Why not harness that power and sell it?

He teamed up with kibbutz businessman Ed Hofland and US-based investor David Rosenblatt, and the Arava Power Company was born.

LABOTT (on camera): The original idea of those who founded the Kibbutz lifestyle was to live off the land, and the creative seeds being planted here at Kibbutz Ketura are flourishing in a capitalist market. Yet, these entrepreneurs are still committed to living the socialists principles of communal life.

LABOTT (voice-over): Ketura leases the land to Arava in return for a share in the company. The Kibbutz members work on the field, including Arava chairman Hofland, who makes no personal profit.

ED HOFLAND, CHAIRMAN, ARAVA POWER COMPANY: When you live on a kibbutz, and that's the basic principle, that the kibbutz will take care of your needs, your family's needs, then it's obviously to do -- the thing to do is to give your salary to the kibbutz.

LABOTT: These solar pioneers have already picked out the site for their next project, a solar field seven times the size of the Ketura plant, straddling Israel's border with Jordan. A

Arava is expected to grow into a $2 billion enterprise, with 50 solar fields in Israel on lands leased from other kibbutz, farmers, and even Bedouin tribes. And there are plans to develop breakthrough technology that would make solar power more efficient and less expensive.

LABOTT (on camera): And what about these panels over here? Are these new types of panels?

ABRAMOWITZ: These are new types of panels to get a little bit more efficiency. You can get another 10, 20, 30 percent more efficiency for the same price.

LABOTT (voice-over): Around the kibbutz, they call Yosef "Captain Sunshine." Other entrepreneurs come from around the world to see what's happening here. Yosef says he's on a mission to make money with solar energy while helping others save the planet.

ABRAMOWITZ: If we can do it, anybody can do it. And how do we become a catalyst to work with other countries, especially poor countries.

LABOTT: One simple idea, one lone pioneer, capturing the sun's promise, casting a shadow over the future that could only be brighter.

Elise Labott, CNN, Ketura, Israel.


ANDERSON: And this month, CNN and Special Correspondent Philippe Cousteau look at the men and women around the world who've put their passion into action to change the world. These are people who inspire change and believe that starting small can have big results.

These people are Green Pioneers, and they're going to be profiled on a CNN Going Green special Friday, 4:30 in London.

Well, what is on your mind? That's what I want to know. The team at CONNECT THE WORLD always wants to hear from you, and you can tweet me, of course, @BeckyCNN.

Just weeks to go, of course, until the London Olympics begins. I want to know how you are planning to watch the great sporting event, the greatest, London says, it'll be on Earth.

Are you lucky enough to have tickets? Were you looking forward to staying at home cheering on your team from the comfort of your sofa? Are you just going to switch the telly off completely, you're not interested? Let me know, @BeckyCNN, that is the tweet.

In tonight's Parting Shots for you, she's a giant in her sport, and now an image to match. What you're watching here is the creation of a 53 by 75-meter mural of British heptathlete Jessica Ennis. To put it into perspective, it's the size of more than 15 tennis courts and is meant to be daunting.

British Airways commissioned the portrait to sit right beneath the flight path into the UK. "Welcome to our turf," is the message, a reminder to all competitors and fans that British athletes do have home advantage for once.

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. The world news headlines up after this short break. Don't go away.