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Rebels Risk Everything In Battle For Aleppo; North Korean Women Win Olympic Opener Against Colombia; Olympic Torch Takes Down Of Central London; Grade Pressure, Bullying Cause Of Alarming Teen Suicide Rate In South Korea; British Boy Sneaks Onto Flight To Rome

Aired July 26, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

We begin in Syria and the battle for the country's biggest city Aleppo.

And news just in to CNN, the wife of a disgraced Chinese politician is charged with murder.

And Olympic officials are forced to apologize after introducing the North Korean team with the South Korean flag.

The Syrian government be in effective control of the country's capital, largely driving back a rebel onslaught there. But opposition fighters are determined to make headway in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city. They're calling it the Battle for Aleppo and it's turning into a bloody one.

Now the opposition says 22 more people were killed in the commercial capital on Wednesday. And it comes helicopter gunships are circling the city as the al-Assad regime gives its all to repress the revolt.

Now Ivan Watson brings us this report from inside northern Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The countryside here in northern Syria is armed and mobilized. Every village we've traveled to has sent fighters to the battle in Aleppo which has been under way since last Friday. And while there have been some gains on the part of the rebels, there have also been losses. We passed at least two funerals in two days for two separate fighters, locals say, by helicopter gunships while battling for neighborhoods inside Syria's commercial capital.

In the meantime, as you move closer to Aleppo, the villages are increasingly empty of the civilian population. And if anything, we've seen cars loaded with civilians and their belongings, fleeing Aleppo. In some cases, these are residents of villages who fled their villages to Aleppo when it was considered to be a safe haven prior to last Friday's rebel offensive. And now they're fleeing the latest round of fighting there, giving you a sense of how much the population has been impacted by this crisis, by what is increasingly being called a civil war.

The rebels are calling this the Battle for Aleppo. They see this as a critical battle, a way to cripple the regime once and for all. They also see this as an existential battle. It is life or death, they have to bring down this government, because there is no other option. If the government is allowed to win, that means their families, their homes, their villages will be targeted.

Throughout the countryside, the pockets of Syrian government forces appear to be hunkered down in various bases and outposts. They don't seem to be carrying out offensive attacks, though we have been to one village 10 kilometers west of Aleppo that is coming under daily artillery and rocket strikes from a nearby Syrian base. We saw at least a half dozen houses that had been directly hit by this indirect fire which of course can be very lethal, a suggestion that those soldiers hunkered down are trying to keep the civilian population, which is broadly supportive of the rebel movement, at bay.

Ivan Watson, CNN, reporting from northern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now you might not have heard of Aleppo until it became a focal point in the Syrian conflict, but the importance of the city should not be underestimated. Now with more than 2 million residents, its population is similar in size to that of Bucharest or of the Greater Vancouver Area. And according to legend, the city was once home to the prophet Abraham.

At Aleppo's heart, is the UNESCO world heritage site, dominated by an ancient citadel. And the city is also a center for the art and was named Islamic capital of culture six years ago. But the biggest threat to Aleppo from the current fighting is the affect on its commercial status, which is ranked among the highest in the region since the Hadia (ph) of the Silk Road.

Now the ugly images we have seen in recent weeks may unfairly come to represent one of the Middle East's most beautiful and historically significant cities. And few foreigners have witnessed firsthand scenes like the one in the photograph we just showed you, but award winning documentary filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen has seen and captured the very worst of the Syrian conflict.

And earlier this month he was based in the western city of Rastan as citizens bore the brunt of the fighting. Diana Magnay tells the story behind his startling footage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A rebel brigade of the Free Syrian Army trained in a disused sports hall. Where children once played, now fighters practice hand-to-hand combat. Their coach is ex- mukhabarat (ph), the Syrian secret services. He tells them to show strength in their face and in their posture, that way their enemy will be scared. These men believe the battle for Rastan will end up face to face in the city's alleyways.

MARCEL METTELSIEFEN, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Most of them seem to be trained rather well, but the problem which was reflected in the kind of training is the lack of weapons. They have no tanks, no artillery, no battle gunships.

MAGNAY: They're forced to improvise: IEDs recycled from enemy ammunition.

ABU AHMAD, FREE SYRIAN ARMY (through translator): All of these we picked up in the day and are staying. They hadn't exploded.

MAGNAY: So far it has worked. Since March, Rastan has been in rebel hands. Regime forces have retreated to the outskirts. The hospital is now their military base. Much of the city destroyed by relentless shelling as the Syrian army tries to root out the 22 rebel brigades called Captiva (ph) holed up there.

Rastan was once a town of 65,000. Now just a few thousand are left cooped up in cellars or wherever they can find shelter from the mortars and the helicopter gunships and deadly missiles.

METTELSIEFEN: We asked people why they not at least moved into another area, because their part of town was hit more frequently than others. They insisted on the safety of their houses. There was no logic in this answer, but a lot of people were so much eaten up by fear that no purely rational decision seems to be possible anymore.

MAGNAY: Supplies are scarce. This food must feed two families. Medicine, too, almost impossible to get hold of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My son is sick, but all I can do is use a wet towel to lower his fever.

MAGNAY: And each day, the bombs claim more lives.

There is only one small, makeshift hospital here deep in a basement. Moments after the shelling, its corridors filled with screams, an endless nightmare for the doctor's in the shift.

METTELSIEFEN: They were chain smoking, nearly all of them, sometimes in tears, often just busy working, working, working. Three doctors for a city under siege and constant shelling.

MAGNAY: Somehow, it is always the children who are hit. They cannot run fast enough. Doctors fight for an hour to save this four-year-old boy. He has a piece of shrapnel in his back, nut it has pierced his heart. They cannot save him. His uncle comes to say good-bye. There are no words for this pain.

ABU SALAH, RASTAN RESIDENT: I don't like to film here with the blood. Believe me, I don't like it. Easier to me to film the bomb than I see the blood. Did you see that child? Did you see?

MAGNAY: And yet there is a resilience here. Children play at being fighters for the Free Syrian Army.

METTELSIEFEN: You haven't been afraid?

MAGNAY: "No," they say, "not of the shelling. Only of god."

The children divide themselves into teams: half regime forces, half rebel fighters. Even as they play civil war on the streets of Rastan, there is talk of an end game in Syria. Hope, perhaps, that when these hands are old enough to hold real guns they will not have to choose who they fight for.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Gripping pictures from inside Syria there.

And now an update on the scandal surrounding disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai. Now according to the Xinua News Agency his wife has been charged with murder.

Now you'll recall that Gu Kailai was suspected in the death of British businessman Neil Haywood. Prosecutors now say they fought over money and accused Gu of poisoning him. The alleged she considered Haywood a threat to her son's safety.

Trial dates have not been given. And Bo himself has not been investigated for Haywood's murder. He was stripped of his powerful Communist Party host for serious disciplinary violations. And at one time he was tipped as a potential president of China.

Now up next, a free ride: how one British schoolboy successfully evaded airport security and ended up in Rome.

Also ahead, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney touches down in London. And we'll tell you what's on the agenda.

And parents speaking out in South Korea about a disturbing trend: teens are taking their lives in alarming numbers. Why it's happening. And what can be done to stop it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

And it is t-minus one day until the opening of the Olympic games. And the torch has now made its way into central London. And here it was early today at St. Patrick's Train Station. And it's making its way past several landmarks, including Buckingham Palace and Downing Street. And celebrities, like actress Brianna Lumley (ph), will carry the flame.

Now British Prime Minister David Cameron said today his biggest concern is making sure the games are safe and secure.

Now meanwhile, details about Friday's opening ceremony are being kept secret, but we know the Oscar winning director Danny Boyle is in charge of the show. So -- and it is also said to be inspired by Shakespeare's play The Tempest.

Now the Olympics is not officially opened yet, but things have already gotten off to an embarrassing start. Now here's the captain of the North Korean women's football team in action at Wednesday match against Colombia. IT was scheduled early to fit the overall Olympic timetable, but it almost didn't happen thanks to this: the South Korean flag displayed on the big screen alongside North Korean player profiles before the match began. And as you can see, North Korean officials were furious and the team walked off the pitch. Organizers issued an apology and the players returned after an hour. And a good job, too. they went on to win 2-0.

Now, security is perhaps even tighter than usual at British airports because of the Olympics. But as the story of one 11 year old boy demonstrates, getting around it was apparently a matter of child's play. The boy managed to get on the flight at Manchester Airport without a ticket or a passport. And he made it all the way to the eternal city. It's quite literally a case of roam alone.

Kate Bolduan reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: It could have been a serious security breach: an 11 year old boy managed to get on to an overseas flight even though he had no ticket and no ID. But 2:00 Tuesday afternoon, he was on a plane from Manchester, England to Rome. Only during the flight did passengers alert the crew that something was unusual. He arrived in Rome at 5:00, but two hours later he was on the same plane headed back home.

Passengers told the BBC the boy was talkative and appeared unphased and did not want to get off. But by nightfall, he was back at Manchester airport.

British officials say passengers were never in danger, because he did go through airport security, but they are investigating why he was never checked for an ID or a boarding pass.

RUSSELL CRAIG, MANCHESTER AIRPORT SPOKESMAN: The airline has suspended the ground staff that were involved in making the forechecks at the gate before the boy boarded the aircraft.

BOLDUAN: One possible theory, he blended in with another family.

BEN MUTZABAUGH, TRAVEL WRITER, USA TODAY: I don't know if security though, like oh, he was with a woman or a man in front of him who was his parent or someone behind him, but that's the million dollar question, how did this kid get through?

BOLDUAN: It's not the first time an unauthorized passenger has been discovered on a flight. Just two months ago, authorities say hours after he got out of jail a California man on parole managed to board a plane without getting screened or having a ticket. Why did he sneak on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to get out of San Diego in an immediate fashion.

BOLDUAN: And a year ago, a Nigerian-American flew to Los Angeles with just a student ID and an old ticket. He was later caught trying to board a second flight to Atlanta.

The British security breech was just a child, but it comes just as London is ramping up security for the Olympic games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For somebody to be able to board a plane that shouldn't be on there, that's quite disgraceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So close to the Olympics as well, security needs to be a paramount of importance here.

BOLDUAN: This kind of incident is a rare exception according to security analyst Fran Townsend (ph), but still...

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: This 11 year old probably was not a threat to anyone other than probably it scared the life out of his mother. This is a potential vulnerability that those who wish to do us harm could take advantage of it.

BOLDUAN: British police tell CNN they do not believe the boy committed a crime, so it doesn't look like he's going to be in any legal trouble. But we can't say what kind of trouble he's going to be in with his parents at home.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now just ahead, South Korea's alarmingly high teen suicide rate has been a painful wake-up call for the nation. Up next, we explore what is driving too many to take their own lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong you are back watching News Stream.

Now South Korea's teen suicide rate remains alarmingly high. Now many students there are under extreme pressure to succeed from a young age, and sometimes these expectations can have deadly consequences. But parents say there's something else driving some teens to take their own lives.

Paula Hancocks reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lin Ji-Yun (ph) reads the suicide note of her 13-year-old son. Song-wen (ph) jumped out of the seventh floor window of the family home seven months ago because he was being bullied at school. Her son's final words described how he was robbed and beaten by boys in his class. Electrical wire was tied around his neck and he was burned with lighters.

Lin does not want to show her face on camera. She's only told close friends and family how her son died. She had no idea he was being bullied.

She relives the day police called her to come home. When she arrived she saw a body outside her apartment block covered in a white cloth.

"I pulled back the cloth and saw my son," she says. "I put my arms around him and felt he was still warm. I said he's still alive and I called for a doctor, but they told me he's already dead. When I looked up, I saw the open window."

His bedroom has not been touched since that day. The parents and older brother all have trouble sleeping. As a teacher herself, Lin says schools are not doing enough to protect their students.

"The school wants to cover it up," she says. "Just five months before my son killed himself, a girl in the same grade committed suicide because of bullying, but nothing was done so it happened again."

The school in question declined to comment, but it's certainly not the only one with problems. In 2010, more than 350 teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide, that's almost one every day. Now the main reason for youth suicide in South Korea is concerns over school grades. But school violence is also a significant factor.

The problem has been recognized by the government. Counseling centers will be set up in 40 percent of schools by the end of this year. So-called WEE classes, standing for We Education Emotion.

This counselor tells me before a student feels suicidal he or she has gone through a lot of pain. If counselors intervene early enough the child can be saved.

Cho Kyung-jun (ph) is 17 years old and came to us with advice for his friend who is being bullied.

He says bullying victims have a hard time, because they feel there's no one they can ask for help. So a place like this is really important.

Schools are also trying to put more focus on team sports rather than just celebrating individual success. Counselors say intense competition in Korean schools can lead to bullying.

Government figures suggest school violence, although still high, has started to decrease. Too late for this 13 year old and another South Korean family destroyed by bullying and suicide.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, South Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: And the issue of school bullying has also been thrust into the spotlight in Japan. And we will speak with one family who lost their 12 year old daughter to suicide seven years ago. They say she was a victim of bullying. And they are fighting for answers surrounding her death. We'll bring you that story tomorrow.

Now in South Africa, the economy was born and raised on its mines. Nearly 1 million people work in the industry. But mining remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Nkepile Mabuse went to the world's deepest mind just outside Johannesburg to see how companies are trying to make it a safer place to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is how the day begins in the world's deepest mine. A 50 meters per second descent, the first half of a near 4 kilometer long journey into the belly of the earth.

Mine safety is in the spotlight in South Africa and we've been granted rare access to get a glimpse of the conditions under which some miners work.

The government says that during the first half of this year 63 miners were killed in South Africa, most of them in gold and platinum mines. Although fatalities have drastically decreased from more than 800 a year in the 1980s to 123 last year, the figure is still above the international average.

This man tells me that after 33 years underground, he's not at all concerned.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: I'm not afraid of the mine. The mine looks after me, I look after him. And he looks after me.

MABUSE: But his colleague says desperation have overpowered his fear. This is the only work many of these men have ever known. Some miners earn a salary of as little as $250 a month.

We've been told by officials here that most mine deaths in South Africa are caused by rock throwers. And that's exactly what this support structure is designed to prevent. They've also told us that there are detectors all over the place to detect fires and toxic gases, because besides seismic activity, those are some of the biggest dangers at these levels.

Collisions underground are also a big concern.

MANDLA MSIZA, PRODUCTION MANAGER: (inaudible) right? Because people are on the machines, the machines are (inaudible) built. It makes (inaudible). So that it warns the driver that there are people in the vicinity.

MABUSE: But while driving in a car that has this protection equipment, we notice a problem. A red dot should appear in the headlights of these miners approaching if our car can detect their movement.

The red light is not coming on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll check...

MABUSE: Are they not working?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's supposed to work...

MABUSE: We later found out that two weeks prior to our visit a mining vehicle, fitted with the safe light drove into a worker and broke his leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of new technology...

MABUSE: The general manager acknowledges that while money is being spent on new safety equipment and technology, there are still shortcomings.

CLIVE VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, GENERAL MANAGER: I think it will be nice to stand here and say I can assure you that it would work all the time. We're still set with human errors. We're still set with fatigue.

MABUSE: The industry has set a target of zero fatalities by 2013, but officials concede that may be unachievable.

Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, in the deepest mine in the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Nkepile Mabuse reporting there.

Now we've already told you about the Korean flag fiasco, but that's not the only Olympic controversy hitting the headlines before the opening ceremony even begins. We've got news of some suspended athletes ahead.

And married bliss for North Korea's leader. We'll bring you all we know about the bridge of Kim when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now Syrian troops and armed rebels are fighting for control of Syria's commercial capital Aleppo. Whoever prevails could get the upper hand in the country's civil war. Opposition activists say government forces are rushing reinforcements to the city.

Now the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been charged with murder, that according to the Xinua News Agency. Prosecutors say Gu Kailai is suspected of poisoning a British businessman after they fought about money. Neil Haywood was found dead in his hotel room late last year. A trial date has not been announced.

A building at the University of Colorado in the U.S. was evacuated on Wednesday after a package was discovered from the alleged cinema James Holmes. Holmes had studied neuroscience at the university before the killing spree. And according to a news report from the U.S. broadcaster CBS News the package contained some crude drawings and papers that described shooting people.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has arrived in London to begin a tour of Britain, Poland and Israel. He met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and is due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron later today. He will also attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday.

Now the London Olympics has been hit by another scandal. On the eve of the opening ceremony, nine athletes have been banned for alleged doping. The International Association of Athletics Federation says that the athletes tested positive for sophisticated doping offenses. And among those suspended included a former Olympic bronze medalist from the Ukraine. But it is unclear at this stage whether the nine athletes were due to compete in the London games.

Now the organizers of the London games have taken extra measures to ensure athletes who take illegal drugs are caught.

Now Ben Wyatt visited an anti-doping lab to find out just how stringent the testing standards are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WYATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Olympic Games may be synonymous with achievement, but drug taking athletes like Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, and Irina Korzhanenko have shown that not all stay within the rules. That's why London 2012 organizers have been driving home the message that dope cheating in July will be harder than ever before.

That's because for the first time, a private company called GlaxoSmithKline is helping out with the Olympic project. I've come to East London, to their laboratories, to find out more about the science behind the screening for dope.

During the period of the games, this $30 million facility will see 150 scientists manning the laboratory 24 hours a day. Samples of blood and urine from the athletes will be delivered direct from the Olympic park to a lab technician who will scan the individual's details into the lab's records. The samples are then given to someone like Paul who cracks open the airtight seals. This allows Elizabeth to separate the liquids into individual vials ready for testing.

The list of IOC banned substances is a long one, and the man responsible for finding them is Professor David Cowan, a specialist drafted in from Kings College London, and the director of the whole operation.

I know that there are kind of key performance-enhancing drugs that would probably be at the top of your list to find. How many substances in all would these machines detect in blood or urine?

DAVID COWAN, KINGS COLLEGE: Well, across the range of instruments that you see in the lab today, we reckon we can pick up even things you haven't even thought of. We can take a sort of what is known as a data- mining approach, where we can look for things we hadn't even have thought of. So, I think, we'll soon be away from the days where designer drugs beat the analyst, and I'm hoping this will be the Games that actually prove that.

WYATT: And I suppose it's only fitting for the Olympic Games that the testing is going to be speedy and efficient?

COWAN: Well, under the world anti-doping agency code, the normal turnaround is 10 working days. During the Olympics, it's one working day. Twenty-four hours is when we turn around the results.

WYATT: Faster testing and quicker results is the promise of the lab, and GlaxoSmithKline are also quick to defend their role of support.

KERRY O'CALLAGHAN, GLAXOSMITHKLINE: We're working very hard at GSK to ensure there is absolute clear water between what we're doing in providing the building, the technology, the machinery, and the actual testing that goes on during the Games, which is solely the remit of Professor Cowan and the scientists from King's College. So they'll be no GSK scientists in this lab during Games time," said Kerry O'Callaghan.

WYATT: What do you think GlaxoSmithKline will bring to this project?

O'CALLAGHAN: We expect about half the athletes who are taking part to be tested, but, really, importantly, every single athlete that steps on the Olympic podium will have been tested, and proven clean and healthy by this laboratory.

WYATT: Like all good scientists, it seems the London 2012 team has certainly done their homework. It remains to be seen if any athlete dares putting their expertise to the test.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Let's go live to London now. Amanda Davies is right there at the CNN Olympics bureau across from where the opening ceremonies will take place. And she joins me now with more on the events that are already underway.

So Amanda, bring us up to speed on the Olympic football.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kristie, yeah it seems quite strange, doesn't it. Everybody is talking about the opening ceremony on Friday being the start of this games, but actually the action got underway on Wednesday. We're calling it day minus two. That was the women's football tournament. And the headline, really, as we stand here this morning has been events at Hampden Park up in Scotland which was North Korea's game against Colombia.

On paper, you wouldn't really have got very excited about it, but there was something of a row because of a mix-up with the flags. It's being known as the flag fiasco. And basically the organizers of the event there on Wednesday put up the wrong flag when they were introducing the North Korea players. And not just any flag at all, they put up the South Korea flag, which caused the players, the North Korean coaching staff and the fans in the stadium really to react with horror. They were really, really upset by it.

And so they decided to walk off the pitch. They said they weren't even going to start the match. And so the Olympic organizers really, really were up against it, had to apologize profusely, has put it down to just human error. They did manage to persuade the team to go back onto the pitch.

The match did take place in the end an hour after it was due to kick off. But North Korea beats Colombia 2-0.

Apparently, though, in North Korea not so much is being made of it. It seems to be the media over here that are making something of the fuss. But, yeah, North Korea won their opening game 2-0.

The Olympic organizers say they have learned their lessons and that it won't happen again.

In terms of the other action, though, from the opening day, the two- time defending gold medalist USA had a little bit of a scare in their opening game. They had -- went two goals down against France, but came back to win 4-2.

The runner's up from Beijing, Brazil, they got off to a fantastic start. They beat Cameroon 5-0.

And there's a lot of cheer around in Great Britain today as the women beat New Zealand 1-0 in their opening game.

The flag folk have something of a big challenge today, because there's eight games in the men's tournament that kick off, that's 16 flags for them to get right. The highlight is a favorite Brazil, they start their campaign. They're up against Egypt. And then the Euro 2012 champions Spain, they take on Japan.

And it's a great day for Manchester United's Ryan Giggs as well. He has the honor of leading out team GB for the first time in 52 years at an Olympics at his home ground of Trattford against Senegal. So some great action expected later on.

LU STOUT: Yeah, thank you for the update on the football as well as that flag fiasco.

Now you must be tracking the movement of the Olympic torch as well. Where is it now?

DAVIES: Well, the Olympic torch is winding down, really. It's says 69 of 70, but they've really been cranking up the sites that the torch has been passing through. It's an a-list of sites today basically going past all the iconic venues of London. It started at St. Paul's Cathedral. It's been on a barge down the reagent's canal. It's passing through Downing Street with the Prime Minister David Cameron. It's going passed Buckingham Palace where William and Kate will be watching, going through Trafalgar Square. And then ends up at a party in Hyde Park where there's some bands playing.

Of course, though, that party is nothing compared to the party that's going to take place behind me at the Olympics stadium on Friday. The rehearsals are going on as we speak.

I was lucky enough actually to catch up with a five time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe yesterday. He of course made a comeback, was hoping to be here at the games. Sadly it didn't work out as planned for him. He said he had no regrets about trying to make the comeback. But on the plus side for the first time he gets to go and watch the opening ceremony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IAN THORPE, AUSTRALIAN SWIMMER: I realized, you know, when I actually arrived here I had my training bag with me. And I put it into the wardrobe at the hotel and it was like, you know what, I really wanted to be in that Olympic village. And I thought I'd, you know, could have handled it and kind of you know thought I knew what it would be like, but when I got here I realized that, you know, I would love to be competing.

DAVIES: Do you regret giving it a go?

THORPE: No. So happy to have done it. I am -- what I, I guess I found my love, something that I loved doing when I was a kid that I lost and I found it again. And I'm really happy about that. So I'm glad in that way. I'm not glad about what the outcomes have been, but you know that's a very good motivator in training.

DAVIES: What are you most looking forward to seeing at the games?

THORPE: I have to say I think the men's 100 meter freestyle will be incredible with an Australian James Magnussen. He may pull off what will be one of the most incredible sprint freestyle performances of all time at these games. And, you know, I'm looking forward to that and to watching that mostly.

And also there's this great rivalry between Becky Edminton (ph) and Italian Pellegrini. So there's a few of those ones that I'm interested in.

And then, you know, I'm interested in other general sports and you know what's going to happen at the opening ceremony just like everyone else.

DAVIES: And I suppose in many ways this is a great thing for you. You're seeing the Olympics from a different perspective.

THORPE: Yeah. And I've never actually gone to an opening ceremony. So this is my first one that I can actually go to. So I'm excited about that. And it will be from a different perspective.

DAVIES: Let's go back to the rivalry in the pool. Are you as excited about Michael Phelps against Ryan Lochte as we all are?

THORPE: I don't know how excited you are. I mean, it's one of those things that you know we look at the story and you know is it going to me you know is there a changing of the guards or not or is Michael going to remain as dominant as he's been over the last five or six years? You know, I don't know the answer to it. And I think, you know, looking at what Michael has been doing, Michael has been very specific about which races he's swimming in. And it means that he has the best shot at winning each of those medals. And I think it was a very clever decision of him to do that.

DAVIES: This isn't a new rivalry is it? It's been around for years. When these swimmers get to this level, what is it that makes that difference?

THORPE: Training. It is training. Like the person who has done more training and knows it exudes that from, you know, from their aura that's around them. And that becomes intimidating to the other competitor. And I think you know both of these guys work very hard in training, both are tough competitors. And so this is why you can't draw that this one will win, or that one will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: Well, of course the reason Michael Phelps hasn't been out to go to those opening ceremonies in the past is because the swimming is always the early events at the games, one of 20 events that kicks off here on Saturday, that will be when we see that Michael Phelps against Ryan Lochte.

And interestingly, Kristie, actually the British Olympic Association who look after team GB have said that less than half of their athletes are actually going to attend the opening ceremony here because they're all worried at the end of the day, yes, about having a party, but it's all about winning those medals and getting them around their neck isn't it?

LU STOUT: Yeah. They're going to postpone their own party until after the games or maybe after their individual events. I can understand that. Amanda Davies there reporting live for us. Thank you.

Now one part of the Olympic complex that we rarely get to see is the athletes village. And Alex Thomas spoke to someone who knows what it's like to live there during the games -- former Olympic 100 meter champion Linford Christie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The world scrutinizes every aspect of the Olympic games except the athletes village. We've got a set of eyes here who has been inside one.

Go on, dispel some myths for us. What's it really like in there.

LINFORD CHRISTIE, OLYMPIC SPRINTER: It depends on which country you go to. I mean various from country to country. When it was in Atlanta it was an old, disused army camp which they changed around and everything else. It was as close for me the biggest village we've ever been in to. But it's -- it can vary from maybe a four star hotel to sometime, you know, two star.

THOMAS: You always stayed in the village. Why was that?

CHRISTIE: I always stayed, because I think I feel that I have to experience what my fellow athletes are going through. So if the food is no good, then I'm eating the same food as them.

THOMAS: Does it help performance or is it distracting?

CHRISTIE: I think it helps. I mean, for me it helped me greatly, because if you are out there in a hotel room and you're sitting there bored out of your mind because there's no one around. By being in the village you can socialize and it keeps you relaxed and you walk around with your fellow athlete, you meet new people everything else.

THOMAS: Who were the biggest pranksters when you were at the Olympics?

CHRISTIE: I'm an original (inaudible), but you know there's a few. You know, it's not about...

THOMAS: What kind of sports did they do?

CHRISTIE: I think you know you find that track and field people are the most, you know, the biggest pranksters of all, but it's all about trying to stay relaxed and on a serious note. You've got to stay relaxed, you know, keep yourself grounded, because the job you got out three to do is really tough.

THOMAS: So talking of myths, is everyone dating each other in the athletes villages?

CHRISTIE: You're joking. It's not true. No, I mean, we socialize quite a lot, of course you do. But, you know, the thing is athletes bedroom is about themselves, you know, to be honest. So they stay with someone too long and they say, oh yeah, yeah they're dating. It's nothing to do with that at all.

You know, you've got to go out there, you there to compete and of course you know you have to come in there you socialize a little bit, but it's all in good fun.

THOMAS: Giving you more expert news from Linford Christie on CNN throughout the games.

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LU STOUT: And now after weeks of speculation her identity has finally been revealed. Now the mystery woman seen at the side of North Korean leader Kim Jong un is his wife. That's up next right here on News Stream.

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LU STOUT: As we first told you on Wednesday, it is official Kim Jong un is married. North Korean state media made a passing mention that this mystery woman recently seen by his side is indeed his wife Ri Sol-ju. North Korean TV broadcast these shots of the couple together in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The Kims were visiting a newly opened amusement park while crowds of people cheered around them.

And while the mystery woman has finally been identified, everyone wants to know more about here. Now a South Korean lawmaker briefed on the matter says she is in her 20s and studied singing in China. But Isha Sesay tells us there is still a lot of mystery remaining.

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UNIDNETIFIED MALE (through translator): Our great leader of people and party Kim Jong un came to a building completion ceremony with his wife Ri Sol-ju.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This announcement on North Korean state TV reveals what has been rumored for weeks, that North Korea's mystery woman is really the wife of the regime's leader Kim Jong un. But beyond her name Ri Sol-ju and confirmation that she and Kim are married, no other details are known about North Korea's first lady.

PHILIP YUN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: There's very little publicly known. I know that there was some reports that he had been married in 2009. There's speculation that he might even have a child.

SESAY: She was first seen with Kim two weeks ago at a performance in Pyongyang, then again days later at a ceremony paying tribute to Kim's late grandfather.

Recent TV footage showed the two laughing during a visit to a preschool.

Experts say the way Kim's marriage was revealed was not a surprise.

YUN: Even though it is really a dictatorship, it's like a big ship. You can't change things on a dime and you've got to get people conditioned and used to the fact that Kim Jong un has a wife. And this is the way they normally roll things out.

SESAY: Yun also says that by taking a wife, Kim is sending a signal to the world that the young leader is growing up and that his dynasty will continue.

YUN: I think that announced his married sort of just -- sort of consolidates the fact that he is really a person who is of substance and is an adult and can handle whatever it is that North Korea has coming at it in the future.

SESAY: Isha Sesay, CNN, Atlanta.

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LU STOUT: And seeing Kim Jong un with his wife by his side is a sharp departure from the North Korean norm. It's another thing setting him apart from his father and grandfather whose wives were rarely talked about and very rarely seen.

Now here is Kim Jong il with South Korea's president in 2007. Roh Moo-hyun brought his wife to the peace summit, but there is no sign of Kim's spouse.

Now we do know he had children with at least two women and may have been married to two others.

But not even Kim Jong un's mother was ever publicly identified as the late leader's wife. And there has only been one first lady, Kim il Song's first wife. And she died when Kim Jong il was a child. After her death, she was honored as mother of Korea. And Kim il Song's second wife occasionally appeared with them, but for the most part these leaders left their ladies in the shadows. And that is clearly not the case with the current Kim in power.

And parts of northern China continue to struggle with floods. And still to come, we'll show you more of these scenes from China and give you the weather outlook for the region next.

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LU STOUT: Welcome back. Time for your global weather forecast with Tom Sater. He joins us now from the CNN world weather center with a focus on the rain in China -- Tom.

TOM SATER, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, you could use a little bit of a break. A few millimeters again fell today. The last thing you want is something tropical in nature again. You had your fair share of it, of course, with Vicente.

Take a look at the numbers, even at this hour Shanghai is at 30 degrees. Notice Da Nang 31. Beijing 25. I think some cooler days are in advance in the future for you and that's some very good news.

But the first thing you're going to see of course the bright colors on our infrared satellite picture is this little circulation starting to take place. In just the last hour the Joint Typhoon Warning Center has upgraded the chance for development from low to medium, that's a good 583 kilometers northwest of Pulau. So we're going to continue to watch that. The last thing we want is it to move northward.

But again, still a lot of activity on the coast. And of course that Mayou front (ph) is really producing heavy, heavy amounts of thunderstorms even at this hour. It's amazing the size that we're starting to see.

Beijing, you're starting to get into the rain again.

But as this frontal system has been meandering southward and northward. And of course the thunderstorms rumble along that front, it's like it's scanning the entire country. Everyone is getting a chance of the flooding rains, unfortunately just too much in too quick a time.

In fact, you can see, here we go on Tianjin. We had 130 -- this is just from Wednesday. And of course in Hohhot 103. Pictures now from Hohhot have come into this area. Heavy amounts of rain, clogged drainage systems. Again as we continue to see village after village continue to put up with this front.

And the thunderstorms that develop are slow moving thunderstorms. There's a lot of moisture in the atmosphere. So they're dropping just copious amounts of rainfall.

And again, there they are, the sewer systems just can't handle it. So again, seems like everyone is getting the share of the wealth unfortunately in this unfortunate matter.

Back to the computer models is what we have as far as the possibility of thunderstorm development along the front really starts to lift northward and that's good news. We'll lift the chance of rain out of Beijing from widely scattered to maybe isolated and hopefully get this front just a little bit to the south, get you a break from the heat as well. The heaviest activity will slide quickly to the east and to the northeast.

Now to the south, we're still looking at the amounts of rainfall that was to the north making its way into the tributaries. This is Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province. They had to open up the flood gates on the Yangtze because of the record river levels. And of course we're going to continue to find record river levels as far as smaller streams and creeks, those that make their way, of course, along the coast.

Hong Kong, take a look at it, 81 millimeters, this is from Wednesday. That brings the storm total of 350 millimeters.

And Kristie, we've seen as much as 500 millimeters that go back to the beginning of the week with Vicente that made its way onshore. Unbelievable amounts of rain.

LU STOUT: Yeah, unbelievable. More rain, more water, that means more risk for landslides. Tom Sater reporting there, thank you.

And with the start of the Olympics just now 31 hours away, we here at News Stream have been reading up on some of the favorite competitors, but we were kind of distracted by this truly terrible photo of Michael Phelps on the official games website. And sitting above the swimmers long list of gold medals and championship titles, you can see his unshaven face and overall disheveled look.

And that's not the only bad picture of Phelps. Now this shot, it stirred up some buzz back in May. It was taken by an AFP photographer during the Team USA media summit. And all of his work came under intense criticism for poor lighting and odd framing.

Like this one of gymnast Julie Zetlin with one of her legs awkwardly just cropped out. And the taped edges of a paper backdrop take away from the look of concentration of runner Lashawn Merritt's face. And it was all torn up, you could see right here, by the time Gymnast Jonathan Horton had his turn.

Now several close-up shots were just plain weird. Like this one of a badminton player winning a shuttlecock on his head.

Now the photographer, Joe Klamar, he later said that he had to improvise. And AFP had never attended the event before. And he thought it would be like a news conference. And for all the criticism, his work has won fans. A New York art gallery is putting the pieces on display. The exhibit opens tomorrow to coincide with the start of the Olympics.

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

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