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Olympics Begin With Women's Soccer Today; Rebel Assault On Aleppo

Aired July 25, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: And tonight on Connect the World, taking no chances as the battle for Aleppo heats up thousands in Syria head for the country's border desperate to save themselves and their families.

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

ANDERSON: Tonight, as a civil war rages on, the UN high commissioner for refugees explains to me how Syria's neighbors are now critical in preventing a humanitarian disaster.

Also this hour...


CARL LEWIS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: It'll never be clean, because nothing will ever be clean. But I think it could be much better than it is even now.


ANDERSON: Nine athletes are banned for doping. Carl Lewis, one of the world's greatest Olympians, on why the scourge is here to stay.

And we've heard of the train taking strain, now how even London's buses are getting in shape for the Olympic games.

First up this hour, Syrian tanks closing in on Aleppo as thousands more troops make their way to what could be a decisive battle. Fighting is escalating sharply in Syria's biggest city. And rebels are vowing to attack those troop reinforcements that are on their way. Residents tell us they are expecting the army to unleash a major assault very soon.

Now Aleppo is a crucially strategic city in this civil war. It's the commercial and industrial heart of Syria, home to more than 4.5 million people who until recently believed that was a regime stronghold. Well, if Aleppo falls, one leading activist remarks that it's game over in Syria. It's extremely rare for CNN to have a reporter inside Syria because of government restrictions as I'm sure you're aware. But our Ivan Watson is there. And he joins us now live.

Ivan, how would you describe the significance of this fight in Aleppo?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, the countryside around Aleppo is armed and it is mobilized. Every village I've been to in northern Syria has sent fighters, their own sons, off to battle in this critical battle over Aleppo. And I've seen just in traveling around. I've stumbled across two funerals in the last two days for two fighters who were killed in Aleppo earlier in the day and brought within a matter of hours to their home village, both of them killed by helicopter gunships, which the fighters say are the single biggest threat they face as they battle for neighborhoods in this critical city.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A father stained with the blood of his son. "This is the blood of a martyr," he yells, "of a hero, a lion. His blood is pure." That grief and pride from a man who just learned his son died in battle.

Abdul Rasheed (ph) was only 22 years old, a defector from the Syrian military. He died Tuesday morning fighting for the rebel Free Syrian Army. Rasheed (ph) is the fourth man from this small hilltop village to be killed battling the government.

A fellow fighter named Prosheed (ph) brought Rasheed (ph) home to be buried. He says Rasheed (ph) was shot in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

A helicopter killed your friend today on a rooftop on top of a building.


WATSON: What began 17 months ago as a peaceful protest movement has morphed into a full-fledged armed insurgency composed of defector soldiers as well as students, shopkeepers, real estate agents and even members of President Bashar al-Assad's ruling Ba'ath Party.

And you were in the Ba'ath Party before.


WATSON: For a long time.


WATSON: The commander of a rebel group that calls itself the Syrian Falcons tells me he's fighting to free Syria for more than 40 years of dictatorship under the Assad family. And new recruits keep coming every day.

You want to fight?


WATSON: Against the government.


WATSON: That's why you came back to Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, yeah, of course. Because he's killed everyone. He's killed my cousin. He's destroyed my village. He's destroyed my home.

WATSON: 23 year old Seprota Mein (ph) came home from a job in Dubai to start his own brigade of rebels. He brought a bag full of radios, cameras, and sniper scopes he'd bought with his own money.

And all of this is for war. You're going to fight with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not. But I go to war for my family, for my country.

WATSON: Brave talk from a young man who has yet to set foot on the battlefield.

This rebel veteran Prosheed (ph) choked back tears while talking about his friend killed in Aleppo just a few hours ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must fight Bashar.

WATSON: After burying his friend, it's back to the battle.

You will go back to fight?


WATSON: Tonight.


WATSON: To Aleppo.



WATSON: And Becky the closer you get to Aleppo, the more the villages are deserted, the more you start seeing vans loaded with people and their belongings leaving that city as people are trying to escape the fighting.

The military, the Syrian government forces in the countryside around Aleppo appear to have adopted a defensive position. They're not carrying out operations and attacks. They're hunkered down. But in one village, Mjata (ph) that we visited, which is about nine kilometers west of the city limits of Aleppo, there are signs that the military is trying to just keep up harassing fire of the communities which seem to overwhelmingly support the rebels.

I saw at least a half dozen houses that had been shelled from a nearby Syrian army base that just seems to lob shells indiscriminately at this civilian community, I don't know, perhaps to punish the local population or perhaps to keep them at bay and protect them from the surrounded military units who face a very angry population around them -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ivan Watson on the ground in what is a civil war in Syria. Ivan, thank you for that.

The fighting, then, intensifies inside the country. And as it does, many Syrians are doing everything they can understandably to get out.

Just think about this for a second, a staggering 119,000 have already fled. Now some of those going to, for example, Turkey. 43,000 refugees now in Turkey according to the United Nations. Crossing over to Jordan some 36,000. That number, though, could be a lot bigger, some 2,500 are awaiting registration and 50,000, I'm told, have been identified by local organizations as being in need of help.

Into Lebanon, 31,000. Over 2,000 there more being assisted pending registration.

And here in Iraq, the story again of refugees flooding across the border, over 8,000 across that border between Syrian and Iraq in the past couple of days.

I talked earlier about the plight of refugees fleeing Syria with the UN's high commissioner for refugees. Here's part of my conversation with Antonio Guterres.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: Our biggest concern is the fact that with fighting in Damascus and in Aleppo, I think, the nature of the problem changed. And we have had massive outflows of people. Just to give you an example, last week, Wednesday and Thursday, 18,000 people moved into Lebanon. On Monday, 6,000. Yesterday, 400 per hour.

And indeed we are very worried that if things go on in the way they are looking at the present moment, we might really have a huge increase in the outflow of Syrians.

We have now about 130,000 Syrian refugees assisted by us, but many more Syrians across the borders than that, just living by various sources, on family they have either in Lebanon or in Jordan. And for the first time we are witnessing also a very important movement of Iraqis that were in Syria as refugees going back home to Iraq.

ANDERSON: At present, Syria's neighbors are keeping their borders open to refugees. Are you concerned that that may not continue in the short-term?

GUTERRES: I'm very grateful for the fact that all countries have kept their borders open. Turkey today announced that they would close the border for threat purposes, but that the border would remain open for refugees seeking protection in Turkey. The Iraqi government has now opened the border for all Syrians seeking protection in Iraq. Jordan and Lebanon have kept their borders open. So, indeed, I think these countries have represented very important example.

If you close the border for trade and keep it open for refugees I would say (inaudible) some situations in the world where borders are close to refugees that are kept open for trade. So I think the Turkish example should be recognized by the international community.

ANDERSON: A near quarter of Syria's refugees are Palestinians living in Yarmouk refugee camp. How concerned are you about them?

GUTERRES: It's important to recognize that the Syrian people has always been extremely generous people. They received Palestinians. They received Iraqis. They have shared everything with them. And this is the moment where the international community needs to step up its efforts to support the Syrian people.

The fact that the media is permanently there and that there is awareness everywhere is of course helping push for support. But the support is still out of proportion, we believe, and things can get much worse in the near future.

So my opinion for a much stronger engagement in the international community to help those that are in need of humanitarian support at the present moment and to express solidarity to host countries. You can imagine for countries like Lebanon or Jordan the impact that such a situation represents from the point of view of the economy, the society, the security. So I think international solidarity is key at the present moment.


ANDERSON: The human face of what is a civil war in Syria. Speaking to the UN high commissioner for refugees just a little bit earlier on today.

You're with Connect the World this evening here on CNN. Plenty more to come of course. Is the tiger losing its roar? We'll ask an international investor if Asian assets are still as good a bet as they've been as the EuroZone crisis washes up on the continent's shores.

Plus, North Korea's Kim Jong un sets out with a mystery lady as the nation surprised to learn their leader is married.

(inaudible) 1972 Munich massacre. We'll be speaking to the widow petitioning the IOC for exactly that. All that and much more when Connect the World continues. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: All right. You're watching Connect the World here on CNN with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

There was no announcement, no celebration, but apparently the leader of North Korea has got married. Speculation has been writhing over a mystery woman has been appearing at events with Kim Jong un. Paula Hancocks has more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: North Korea now officially has a first lady. State run television confirmed this Wednesday evening that the mystery lady we've been seeing accompanying Kim Jong un recently is in fact his wife. And she has been named as Ri Sol-ju.

It was a very subtle announcement on state run television on Wednesday, but as we know everything is very heavy choreographed in North Korea and nothing happens by accident. The news reader announced Kim Jong un came to the opening of an amusement park with his wife Ri Sol-ju.

And that is all the hard facts that we have. No word on when they married, or if in fact she is a singer as some South Korean media have speculated.

She has been accompanying Kim Jong un on many occasions over the past few weeks. And the fact she has been so visible and so high profile is a sharp departure from the North Korean norm. The wives of his father Kim Jong il and his grandfather Kim il Song were rarely talked about and very rarely seen, a sign that Kim Jong un has his own style of leadership.

Experts say that this may be part of creating a more approachable and human persona for the leader, or at least considering he's not yet believed to be 30, making him seem more stable and more secure.

Though we now know who the mystery lady is, but far from ending the speculation, this is only likely to increase it. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


ANDERSON: Well, a look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight. And a law enforcement official tells CNN that the FBI has discovered a package that appears to have been sent by the alleged theater shooter James Holmes in a mail room at the University of Colorado.

Now they couldn't provide details on what the package contained or to whom it was addressed. It's not known at this time how long the package was in that mail room. Holmes being held, of course, by police without bond. He will likely face formal charges for the attack next Monday.

Well, Beijing is having another rainy day after the worst floods there in 60 years wrecked havoc in China's capital over the weekend. The city's outdated drainage system was unable to cope with the deluge, leaving houses and streets as you can see here absolutely submerged. At least 37 people have died, though some reports say the toll could be much higher than that. Angry residents say that the government failed to prepare them for such a disaster.

Well, dramatic video has been released of a whale attack a Sea World in the U.S. We warn you that the following images are pretty frightening. The video shows a veteran trainer being dragged under water by a 5,000 pound killer whale back in 2006. After a minute, the whale finally brings the man to the surface and he escapes. Apparently the trainer and the whale have worked together for years. The video was used as evidence in a lawsuit over the death of another Sea World trainer two years ago.

And investigations are underway after an 11 year old British boy got a flight to Rome without a passport, without a boarding pass, and indeed without a ticket. The boy's slipped away from his mom in a busy shopping center and made his way to Manchester Airport. He followed a family through various security checks and onto the plane. It wasn't until the flight took off that passengers became suspicious and alerted the crew. Several airline staff members have been suspended. And Italian authorities, well they sent the boy back home. Apparently he's safe and sound.

We're going to take a very short break here on CNN. When we come back, though, the unofficial start of the London Olympics is underway. Hear, though, why news off the pitch is causing quite a stir.


ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson.

The Olympic games ceremony may still be two days away. That, of course, be the official opening and the clock on the right-hand side of your screen reflecting that. But the women's football competition has already made its debut. And as the games start, well controversy not far behind. Alex Thomas joins us now from the CNN Olympic bureau.

Much to get through tonight. Let's start with a doping story. Allegations on doping stealing the spotlight today somewhat, you know, less than two days before the opening ceremony.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Becky. Nine athletes, well their Olympic dreams are over before they'd even begun. And it's perhaps no surprise about the timing of this announcement from the IAAF, that's the governing body for world athletic, though they are not the organizers of the games, they're the ones that have announced that this new system of testing called biological passports, the ones that have forced out these nine athletes. Much like your actual passport that traces where you've been around the world, athletes biological passports have a history of their urine and blood samples over a period of time and if there are variations in those, then testers can spot that those athletes have been cheating by taking illegal substances even if the tests don't show the substances themselves.

That's the method by which these nine athletes have been caught -- well, six of them through that method, three to another method.

All these samples being taken around the time of the world championships last year, which shows how sophisticated this method of testing is and how the testers are hoping it means they can stay one step ahead of the cheats, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, interesting stuff. You know, Alex, I spoke earlier on today to arguably the greatest Olympian ever Carl Lewis himself of course dogged by a doping scandal way back when. I asked him whether he thought that we would ever stamp out doping in athletics. This is what he said to me.


LEWIS: The athletes need to take control of the narrative and say, look, I'm tired of this happening and people that should not be winning, winning and drugs in our sport being the narrative. They have to take control. So I think it can happen.

It'll never be clean, because nothing will ever be clean. But I think it could be much better than it is even now.


ANDERSON: Carl Lewis speaking to me earlier today. You'll see more of that interview as we get into our Olympic coverage in full next week. And we'll be at the Olympic bureau there with Alex as the event really kicks off, although the kicking of some balls expected at least tonight, because the football has started. A bit of controversy, though, in one of the matches Alex.

THOMAS: Yeah, six football matches kicking off around the country. This is the London Olympics, but there are events being held outside the capital city. And at Glasgow's famous Hampden Park Stadium in Scotland, Becky. The North Korean women's football was due to play Colombia, but before kickoff the players walked off the pitch in protest at the South Korean flag being shown on the video screen as it went through the player lineup. So they were very unhappy about that as I guess we all would be if you're representing your country at a sport and another country's flag is being shown.

We think there must have been some delicate negotiations behind the scenes, because the players have come out and started the match. And a short time ago it was 0-0 as I glance down at the screen below me here.

So not great for organizers already dogged by controversy away from the even, Becky.

ANDERSON: Alex at the Olympic bureau at the east end of London. Alex, thank you for that. The excitement palpable.

We've got just a day and 23 odd hours to go before that opening ceremony. The Olympics isn't just fun and games, though. Behind the scenes there is a massive security operation in place to ensure that the games go smoothly.

It was only 40 years ago that the Olympics became a political stage of the worst kind. In 1972, 11 Israeli Olympians at the games in Munich were kidnapped by a Palestinian group called Black September, held hostage, and eventually slaughtered. Now that attack is commonly referred to as the -- now commonly referred to as Munich massacre is the exact type of thing British authorities are determined to prevent.

Well, I'm now joined by Ankie Spitzer, widow of the Israeli coach Andre Spitzer, one of the murdered -- those murdered at the 1972 games. And she's been campaigning for the IOC committee to honor the memory of those slain.

Ankie, thank you for joining us.

You've just met with the head of the IOC. What did he say to you this evening?

ANKI SPITZER, WIDOW OF ISRAELI COACH ANDRE SPITZER: Well, we just came there in order to hand them a petition, you know, signed by more than 107,000 people from all over the world from 155 countries supporting our call for the minute of silence. And not only them, many parliaments in the world from Canada, the U.S. Senate, the House of Congress, tomorrow morning at 10:30 on the steps of the White House, of the house of congress, members of the congress are going to stand for a minute of silence.

The whole world is supporting us. This has not been like this for the past 40 years. It was our long quest.

ANDERSON: Jacques Rogge has to date said that the opening ceremony, and I quote him, is not an atmosphere that is fit to remember such a tragic incident. And tonight he stands by what he said, does he?

SPITZER: Yes. We came there today and we asked for a last time. We gave him many options to, if he didn't want a minute of silence, we asked him at least say, let us not forget what happened in Munich so that it will never happen again.

ANDERSON: How did he react to this?

SPITZER: Well, he just -- ironically. And of course we are outraged and we are angry and we are sad, because we think that our husbands and fathers, they were Olympians. They part of the Olympic family. And that is why they should be remembered, not as some side street or in some backyard of somebody, at the Olympic stage.

ANDERSON: A lot of people say that politics should just be kept out of what is the Olympic games and doesn't fit the spirit.

SPITZER: This is not politics. I said to them, you know, we are not bringing the politics into the games. The murder was a political motivated murder, but you know all the countries that are joining us, you know, Jacques Rogge is turning a deaf ear. He was just listening to us and he was making belief that maybe in the end he was going to do something. But now he go into history with the legacy that he was the one president who did not have the moral responsibility to say the few words...

ANDERSON: 40 years on, what do you remember of that day?

SPITZER: Well, I wasn't at the Olympic village. I was in the room a few hours after they were murdered there and where they were kept hostage. And I remember the day very well, because I -- when I came into that room and I saw what happened and how the last hours were spent by my husband and his friends, I said I'm never going to stop talking about it because the world should know that what happened then 40 years ago was everything against the Olympic idea, the Olympic spirit and everything that the Olympics stands for.

My husband and his friends they came with dreams, with expectations just like Jacques Rogge was an Olympian in '72. And he told us when we had the most difficult decision for him, for the head of the IOC was when it happened in Munich to stay or to go. And he said, I decided to stay, because I didn't want to hand a victory to the terrorists.

But that is what he is doing now, he is buckling under the threat of an Arab boycott. And so he is not taking his...

ANDERSON: Ankie Spitzer, her husband Andre, of course, who was a fencing coach, appealing today to the head of the IOC for a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony here in London. I'm afraid your wishes not being answered by the IOC chief.

SPITZER: We will not stop. We will not stop.

ANDERSON: And we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, the ripple effect of the eurozone crisis. If you do business in Asia, the latest slew of facts, well, they may be alarming. Just ahead, we'll ask an investment guru if you should be worried. Stay with us.


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

Syrian rebels and government troops are both sending reinforcements to Aleppo as the fighting there sharply escalates. Rebels say they've now liberated -- what they call it -- several districts of what is Syria's commercial hub, a crucially strategic city.

The leader of North Korea is married. Speculation has been rising over a mystery women who had been appearing at events with Kim Jong-un. State television announced that he has opened an amusement park with his wife, but gave no other details.

Greek athlete Paraskevi Papachristou has been expelled from that nation's Olympic team after posting an offensive comment about African immigrants on Twitter. She later apologized for what she called a tasteless joke. Meanwhile, authorities have banned nine Olympic athletes for doping.

And the UK is falling deeper into recession. The British economy shrank 0.7 percent in the second quarter, a much bigger drop than was originally forecast.

Well, it's not just the UK economy that's on shaky ground. New figures show German business confidence is at its lowest level in two years. Now, the significance of that news is something I discussed with my colleague Richard Quest, reporting for you tonight from Berlin.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The fact of the matter is that the crisis in Europe is now well and truly washing onto the shores here in Germany, and they know it.

Europe is such an important part for German industry, for trade, and for investment, that if these other countries are experiencing slow-downs and recessions, Germany is simply not immune. And that's why we've had the ZEW survey, we've had the Ifo survey, and of course, we recently had Moody's warning that the outlook was negative on the German -- the German rating.

Put it all together, and you end up with a picture that by no means is Germany in trouble, but it is certainly feeling the cold winds of the economic problems. And when I was on the streets here today in Berlin, it may be very pleasant on the weather, but people are aware that things could be about to change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you hear about this poverty in Spain, all these things happening in Italy, but in Germany, it just seems the economy's blooming and everything's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty worried at the moment. I don't worry about the German economy, I worry about the whole system, about the world economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am actually very worried about it, but in Germany, especially Berlin, it's -- it doesn't seem like there's actually anything going on.

QUEST: I think one can overstate the problems for Germany's economy. What you can't overstate is the political decisions that have to be taken, not only here in Germany, but the ramifications as they go through the rest of the union.

Germany has made up its mind. It loves the euro, it wants the euro to continue, and it's prepared so far to stay with the course. But Becky, eventually there will come a time when the politicians over there will simply say "We're no longer prepared to pay the bills," because the German people are saying "enough."


ANDERSON: Well, the eurozone crisis by no means simply a eurozone problem, and today, more reasons why the world needs to care about this whole mess. We've seen how the recession in the UK has deepened, while bearing in mind, the eurozone is one of the UK's biggest trading partners.

On the other side of the world, the ramifications also being felt. The IMF says the crisis is posing a key risk to China's growth. Demand for the country's exports is slowing up, and it's hurting. Remember, the EU is China's single biggest export destination.

And Japan suffering from the same problem. The country has just posted a record trade deficit for the first half of the year.

Well, despite all that, investment guru Jim Rogers is still bullish about Asia's biggest economy, China. Based in Singapore, he's currently in southern Austria, and he's joining us tonight.

You've been tracking the Chinese economy for decades, the IMF warning that the euro's a mess. Sort of Armageddon-like catastrophe that's going on over this side of the pond -- on this side of the world -- is really beginning to threaten Asia. Do you buy that or not?

JIM ROGERS, INVESTOR/AUTHOR: Well, Becky, of course, Europe is the largest economy in the world. The US also has problems, so you've got the two largest economies in the world having problems, that's going to affect everybody. Be very worried, Becky. Be very careful.

ANDERSON: So you -- you're not prepared, though, to say everybody, investors included, businessmen should call time on the Asian Pacific region, are you?

ROGERS: Well, Asia will suffer less than the rest of the world. But Becky, Europe and America and Japan are ten times the size of the Chinese economy. China cannot stand alone. China cannot save the world. These other economies are huge, and they're going to affect everybody --

ANDERSON: Right, but --

ROGERS: Yes, Asia will suffer yes. Asia has saved a lot of money for a rainy day. Now, it's starting to rain. They have money to spend. The West does not.

ANDERSON: China can help out by buying the sort of -- poisonous debt, as it were, that many of these countries have that nobody else wants at present. Is it doing its bit, do you think, at this stage?

ROGERS: Wait a minute, Becky, why should China go bail out a bunch of --

ANDERSON: Well, somebody has to. Somebody has to. If it's in their interest, because they sell their goods in Europe, then somebody's got to buy that poisonous debt, haven't they? Short term at least.

ROGERS: Well, it would be a cheap way to win influence and gain friends, yes. They -- even if they lose -- if they buy the bonds and then they lose money on the bonds, at least everybody then says, oh, China came to our rescue, they get more power at the UN, more power at the IMF, more power at the World Bank.

Yes, it's a cheap form of foreign aid for them. But I wouldn't buy those bonds. Not with my money or with your money, Becky.

ANDERSON: What do you think's the picture, then, going forward, medium to long-term? We see the picture short-term, and we've yet to be delivered a solution by any of the politicians or officials here in Europe over what will happen next in the eurozone and whether even the euro will continue to exist. What's your forecast medium, long-term in the Asia Pacific region?

ROGERS: Well, Becky, 2013, 2014 are going to be difficult for the economies in the West. They're going to get worse and maybe even much worse. That's going to affect Asia. Now, I've moved to Asia. My children speak Chinese. We're growing up in Asia because I think that the 21st century will be the century of China, the century of Asia.

But that does not mean there won't be setbacks along the way. America had 15 depressions in the 19th century as we grew to power and glory. Nothing is straight up.

ANDERSON: Jim, always a pleasure to have you on. Interesting to listen to your views. Stay safe. Jim Rogers, there, out of Asia for you on what is a story that's happening here in Europe with, as you can see, global resonance.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride as visitors fly into London for the Olympics. We meet the Invisible Army working to keep you safe.


ANDERSON: London's airports are feeling the heat as tourists and athletes arrive in droves for the Summer Olympics just less than two days away, of course, now. Heathrow Airport alone set to welcome more than 100,000 Olympic participants.

Making sure all those people are safe is no easy task. I went behind the scenes with the Invisible Army, as they're known, who work tirelessly to ensure that we all have a smooth ride.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Early morning at Heathrow, and Stuart Adams is making sure the air field is ready for another busy day.

STUART ADAMS, DUTY FIELD MANAGER, HEATHROW AIRPORT: Good morning, Airside Safety Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio): Morning. It's the departure on standby 11.

ADAMS: Morning.

ANDERSON: Here at the Airside Safety Department, it's the invisible workers, the ones we rarely see, that keep the airport running. Beyond the familiar terminal windows, this army of men and women deal with issues from fuel spills, to stray birds, to burst tires on the runways. Stuart's job is to deploy this team swiftly and efficiently.

ADAMS: All right. Morning, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Good morning, Stuart.

ADAMS: All right. Details for today. Steve, if you can cover the maneuver area desk. Carl and Neil, if you can go out in the gulley sucker, please.

ANDERSON: Using vehicles that clean, sweep, and collect, the team get to problems quickly. Hydraulic spill, a dangerous hazard. Once it's been covered in sawdust, it's up to Carl Jordan to clean the area down.

CARL JORDAN, AIRFIELD OPERATIONS: I just got a call from the apron officer, they've got some spillage on the stand that we're at the moment. People have put sawdust down, so this lorry I've brought along that's going to put detergent and water down, and that's going to help absorb and stop it spreading and make it easier to clean up in a little while.

There's nothing really we can't deal with. It just depends on if there's an aircraft generally in the way. So, it's more obstacles in the way, and obviously, the size of the lorry, as you can see, it's quite large, and you've got to be careful of the aircraft.

ANDERSON: With only two runways, it's crucial nothing gets in the way, especially FOD, foreign object deadly. It's down to Steve Xerri in the airside tower to keep it off the runway.

STEVE XERRI, AIRFIELD OPERATIONS MANAGER: This piece of equipment here is the FOD radar. We've got two radar towers, which monitor the runways for any piece of debris. If FOD is ingested into the engine, then it can potentially cause structural damage to the engine, which would affect the aircraft performance.

ANDERSON: Elsewhere on the air field, a team prepares for the unexpected. The firemen here are trained for the worst.

ANDY DURRANCE, AIRPORT FIRE DEPARTMENT: The rig itself is -- provides a gas fire. It's very effective and it's easy to control for us. If we want to turn it off, we can turn it off.

ANDERSON: Andy Durrance is in charge.

DURRANCE: Every person is trained to do exactly the same job, so I can pick any person to be able to operate the monitor, wear breathing apparatus. So, we're all totally competent in all aspects.

ANDERSON: For many, airports are familiar places. We know the process, we know the drill. What happens on the ground, though, often goes unnoticed. But it's the effectiveness of operations like these that make Heathrow a thriving hub.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. When we come back, we talk to the Jordanian princess and former Olympic athlete about all things equestrian and how actions are changing for some women in sport. That coming up after this.


ANDERSON: For the first time in the modern Olympics, London 2012 will see women from all nations allowed to compete. In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia is sending two female athletes.

Well, the Jordanian princess Haya Bint al Hussein is herself a former Olympic show jumper. She's now a member of the IOC and is head of the International Equestrian Federation. Max Foster asks her what the London Games mean for equine sports. This is what she said.


PRINCESS HAYA BINT AL HUSSEIN: I think what we enjoy in Britain is the fact that for our federation, we're right at the heart of the Games, but really right at the heart of sports in Britain. We have now 100 year history in the Olympic movement of equestrian sports.

But over and above that, we've come to a country that has an incredible tradition for years and years and years, centuries, with horses and specifically with equestrian sport, and the quality of the performance that we'll see here will be probably one of the best ever.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because we're in London, I need to ask you about Zara Phillips, I want to talk about her. What are her prospects, do you think?

HUSSEIN: She's one of our best athletes. She's a winner, she's a great ambassador. She's been our -- individual and team gold European in 2005, European champion, and 2006 she's a world champion. She has every -- every chance to do well. But I don't envy the pressure she must be under.

FOSTER: Well, you were in the same position, weren't you, in Sydney?

HUSSEIN: I was -- I was in the same position. Competing in the Olympic Games is huge pressure. But in a way, you're in the zone because you've trained for it, you've qualified for it, you've worked for it, so you forget that. But Olympic Games at home is a whole -- a whole different ballgame.

FOSTER: Can I also ask you about the -- this is the first Olympics, as I understand, where women have been represented in every national team, and that's because of a change in the Middle East, actually. Is that hugely symbolic for this year?

HUSSEIN: I think it's very symbolic. I don't think it's specifically due to a change in the Middle East. There has become an understanding with that evolution that sports is a very, very important agenda item, which isn't always brushed aside by political occurrences.

I think that the International Olympic Committee members, in conjunction with Arab governments, have worked incredibly hard to facilitate this happening, and I think it's historic in every way.

FOSTER: Can I ask you, does it -- do you think it represents a real change in the Middle East, or it's just a step in -- step towards more equality?

HUSSEIN: When we talk about a real change in the Middle East, people start to imagine that this is kind of an occurrence that happened in over five minutes. This is 30 or 40 years of sport building itself slowly.

I think that it -- discussions between the Olympic Committee and governments, I think it's agendas that have been put forward. I think it's layer upon layer of strategies.

FOSTER: But it's progress?

HUSSEIN: It's definitely progress. Anywhere where women are taken seriously and given the opportunity that they deserve, I think that that is progress, and you can see that in the whole humanitarian sector and in sports.

FOSTER: And finally, you're here. There's great weather. You're in a very senior position, so you get good seats. But I guess nothing compares to actually competing in the Games. You'd much rather be out there. Is it frustrating for you not being out there competing?

HUSSEIN: I do get itchy, but my primary job is to be able to have the joy of watching an incredibly professional group of staff we have at the International Equestrian Federation do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Normally at the end of it, I do tend to think I could have done it better, maybe, if I'd been in the saddle.


ANDERSON: The Jordanian princess Haya Bint al Hussein talking to Max Foster. Well, it has been another beautiful day here in London with just two days to go until that Opening Ceremony. There are rumors, though, of rain on Friday. Jen is in the house with a forecast.

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Becky! Rumors are such a bad thing. You know, we're not supposed to be gossiping about something like that. But there is a reality. There is a chance for rain, but right now, it actually looks like it's going to be less of a chance.

But you've been spoiled by the warm temperatures. Yesterday, you had the warmest high temperature you've seen since back in August of last year. Becky, I know you were bragging about the nice weather back in May, but you actually peaked at 30 degrees.

And you want to know, are the warm temperatures going to stick around? Well, the good news is, yes, it is. As I show you on the satellite, really quiet out there, just like yesterday, just really some rain through parts of central Europe.

So, what's the forecast going to be for Thursday and, more importantly, Friday? Still warm out there, high of 26 degrees, a little bit above average. But we do have a 30 percent chance of rain.

But look at Saturday. Saturday not looking so bad. Cooler out there, but we just have clouds around for your Saturday.

So, for your Friday, we break it down, the rain chances as we go throughout the day. In the morning, nice and dry. In the afternoon, a 30 percent chance of rain, and then in the evening, it tapers off a bit more at 20 percent. This should be building a smile across Becky's face right now.

ANDERSON: Few showers, that's what we like.

DELGADO: Yes. You know what? I really have a feeling that it's --

ANDERSON: Roll call.

DELGADO: -- it's gonna be a pretty good day.

ANDERSON: It's going to be fine.

DELGADO: I think so.

ANDERSON: It's going to be fine and maybe slightly wet, but fine, is what we say here, lovely.

DELGADO: I think it'll probably be pretty good.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much.

DELGADO: See you tomorrow.

ANDERSON: Jen with your forecast, thank you Jen, see you tomorrow.

With just two days, then, to go, we want to hear what your plans are for the Olympics. Where are you going to be watching from? You've got tickets? You going to be getting up early or staying up late to watch your favorite athletes? Let us know,

Or, of course, you can tweet me your thoughts @BeckyCNN. We will be tweeting a lot during the Olympics, of course, @BeckyCNN.

We're seeing all kinds of art installations springing up around the UK capital to celebrate the Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad, as it carries on. This one takes what looks like one of the iconic red double-decker buses you see all over London and is, well, it's made it do push-ups.

It's the brainchild of a Czech artist. It's outside the Czech Republic's Olympic headquarters in north London and will stay there for the duration of the Games. And listen up. You can even hear it groaning as it works out.

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. The world news headlines up after this.