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CONNECT THE WORLD

A Recap Of Olympic Action; Many Fear Death Toll In Syria Could Top 100,000

Aired August 7, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Yes, it does. I'm Becky Anderson live from the Olympic park where one nation this hour could make history in the men's 1,500 meters. While it won't be Britain, Team GB is celebrating its biggest gold medal tally in over 100 years with five days still to go.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Max Foster at CNN London. Also tonight, Iran comes to al-Assad's rescue vowing their support for the Syrian regime. We take an in depth look at the sectarian battle bubbling under the surface.

And you're seeing the first color images of Mars beamed back to Earth from Curiosity. After the rover's spectacular landing.

ANDERSON: All right. We're live from Olympic Park. The women's 100 meter hurdles has just played out and the stadium behind me. The roar is unbelievable. It was pegged as a battle between two stars: reigning world champion Sally Pearson from Australia who set a new Olympic record in her heat on Monday, and American star Lolo Jones. You'll remember Jones famously crashed out in the penultimate hurdle in Beijing four years ago. And she came into the London games looking to redeem that crushing performance.

Well, the result is in. It's gold for Pearson and a new Olympic record of 12.35. Australia's Sally Pearson with a new Olympic record. We're going to talk that in a moment with my guest tonight, but the story of the day and pardon my apparent bias here, is the success of Team GB. The home turf athletes have eclipsed their Beijing haul of 19 gold medals in what has become quite frankly the most successful Olympics since London first hosted its games in 1908.

The Brits have 22 golds in the bag and are sitting in third place in the overall medal table behind China and the United States.

Well, to cope with me is former British spring and hurdling champion Kriss Akabusi. Before we wind up every other nation, Kriss, and we talk about just how well the host nation has done, let's just talk about the success there in the 100 meters hurdles by the women. Sally Pearson with a world record time there.

KRISS AKABUSI, FRM. BRITISH SPRINT & HURDLING CHAMPION: Yeah, 12.35. I mean, that really is smoking. I didn't think I'd see it on that track. I've heard that is a very, very fast track. But for her to come out and do that. I mean, she's been peerless, you know, only been defeated once this year. For her to step up there in the arena, taken all the best guys in the world, step up and do 12.35 that's really something.

ANDERSON: 12.35, an Olympic record, forgive me, not a world record, that stands still at 12.21. This is a fast track, I'm told.

AKABUSI: It's unbelievably fast.

ANDERSON: What does that mean?

AKABUSI: What it means is it's compact, it's tight. It's not the sort of track you want to train on because you're going to find your going to get reverberate and that'll be your legs and your soft tissues a lot of stressed, but for the one off big race it's packed. It's going to reverb. You're going to bounce, get all that elastic strength. Boom, crossing that line and developing your fastest times ever.

ANDERSON: Kriss Akabusi in the house with me this evening. We've got one big event already tonight that we may be about to witness, another piece of history in the making. The men's 1500 meter is coming up in the next few minutes. Three Kenyan athletes, led by defending Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprof -- or Kiprop, excuse me, looking to become the first to sweep the 1500 medal in 104 years. Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba there round out the trio.

Kriss, if the favorites Kiprop does win, he'll become the first man to defend his 1500 meter title I believe since another one of our great Seb Coe.

AKABUSI: That's right. And you know Kiprop got the -- he got the title in retrospect he got silver actually in Beijing, doping offense meant that he didn't get his (inaudible) but did get his gold medal. But, you know, he determined now to make sure that this time he not only gets that gold medal, but gets his day in the sun.

Yeah, you know Coe, Kramm (ph), Ovette (ph), (inaudible), guys we love those times. It is a blue ribbon event, the 1500 meters, so we do love this event. But let's see what the Kenyans can do.

ANDERSON: Let's remind ourselves, that coming up in about 10 minutes time. And, you know, the head of the organizing committee, Seb Coe, I've got to say I take my hat off to here, he's organized an absolutely amazing event. He will be watching this tonight. We all remember his racing way back when, so I'm sure he'll be watching here tonight.

Here's something extraordinary, athletes from Kenya's Rift Valley have won more medals in the middle and long distances than any other country in the last 50 years. David McKenzie went to find out how they do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First on the list, altitude. We're heading to 8,000 feet. And those sorts of heights help peak running performance. But mountains are everywhere. So what makes Iten the home of champions?

Well, first, the runners. Iten is home to about 1,000 athletes. Hundreds meet six days a week on this rural road.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

MCKENZIE: Just running until you throw up he says. No coaches are necessary. They thrive on teamwork and competition.

But with so many, is running in the blood here?

At this high school, it seems to be.

(on camera): A couple of decades ago St. Patrick's asked its former students who have became champions to a treat. The problem is that they have had so many world class athletes here that they have run out of space.

BROTHER COLM O`CONNELL, RUNNING COACH: Now, this particular photograph here, this was the Kenyan team taken with the president at statehouse Nairobi.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Brother Colm O'Connell has coached champions at St. Patrick's for decades.

O'CONNELL: From one school we had 10 representatives in this whole Olympics.

MCKENZIE: He says genetic theories of dominance are rubbish.

O`CONNELL: Nobody has yet come up with any conclusive evidence to say that there is what you might call a natural advantage here. So I think a lot has got to do with early identification of talent, the lifestyle of the people when they're young.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): So they put the photos in the dining hall to motivate future champions, which brings us to another point.

(on camera): The Kenyan diet in this part of the Rift Valley is very rich in carbohydrates, and very low in fat, and really they feel that the secret weapon is this: It's Ugali. It's just very simple maize and water, and it's a staple here.

Runners love it, often eat it in the evening. And running legend has it that it's so popular and so effective that one coach in Europe shipped this all the way to his runners to improve their times.

(voice-over): More often than not, the runners now come in the other direction. Lornah Kiplagat, a world class athlete who now runs for the Netherlands, says conditions here are perfect.

LORAN KIPLAGAT, RUNNER: You can't find any other place in the world like this. It's the terrain, it's everything. I mean, you need to be here to feel it by yourself. But the atmosphere, it motivates you.

The power has to come from your feet.

MCKENZIE: Elite athlete, including the entire English Middle Distance Team, come to Kiplagats High Performance Center. Many improve their times, but they come here for a couple of weeks.

O'CONNELL: Very hungry and very motivate. And now because we a tradition in the area, the kids see the great champions training around here, and of course, they are highly motivated, because these champions become great role models for our young kids growing up.

MCKENZIE: He says that the mind is as important as physical talent.

So he picked out Moses Mukono for his will to succeed.

MOSES MUKONO: I came to realize even if a person doesn't have the knowledge but you can run well and you can be a success in your life, even if you didn't go to school and you can run and you can earn your life through your athletics.

MCKENZIE: For Mukono, like many other Kenyan athletes, running can really mean a ticket to an education, recognition, and the potential for a better life.

So what then, ultimately, makes Kenyans the best? Perhaps it's just the magic of these mountains.

David McKenzie, CNN, Iten.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Looking forward to that race.

Well, the Caribbean nation of Grenada enjoying a half day holiday right now. It's all in honor of Kirani James after the teenager stormed to victory in the men's 400 meters around this time last night, winning the country's first ever Olympic medal.

Well, of course one of the talking points at the athletics this week was when Kirani James traded name tags with double amputee Oscar Pistorius in the semifinal. Well, earlier today Kirani spoke to CNN about running with that South African.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: What are your feelings about Oscar and what he's achieved at these games?

KIRANI JAMES, 400 METER GOLD MEDALIST: I mean, it's just an honor just running against Oscar. And it takes a lot of courage and a lot of confidence, because he had to went through a lot just to be here, so I mean, just him just being out there just doing what he does, you know, I really admire that. And like I say, he should be an inspiration for everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: (inaudible) runner or tri-Olympic champion, there you go. He makes a really good point. Hear more of CNN's interview of the man of the moment in Grenada coming up in world sport in about an hour-and-a-half from now.

Back to Max in the studio for the time being for the other big stories of the day - Max.

FOSTER: Becky now back to Syria and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed a top Iranian envoy who has come to Damascus to show support for a threatened regime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster, welcome back to you.

Now in the latest developments in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad welcome Iranian envoy Said Jalili. He promised continued support saying Iran would never allow regional and global enemies to break the axis of resistance. For his part, al-Assad repeated his vow to cleanse Syria of terrorists.

Meanwhile, the battle for Aleppo continues. The opposition says at least 27 people were killed there today and 140 nationwide. Mohammed Jamjoom has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Violence raged in Aleppo on Tuesday as opposition activists reported artillery shells falling on several neighborhoods in Syria's most populated city amid a state of panic by residents there. This amateur video that posted online purports to show a building in Aleppo that was destroyed as a result of having been shelled. Another amateur video purported to show a war plane flying over the city.

The situation there has worsened so much that the 24 UN monitors that had been in Aleppo had been temporarily pulled out of the city. A spokeswoman for the UN supervision mission in Syria said that that decision had been made because of the deteriorating security situation there.

But it wasn't just the security situation that had worsened. Activists said the humanitarian crisis was deteriorating as well, that there was a lack of doctors and medical supplies to adequately treat the wounded.

Meanwhile in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed top Iranian official Said Jalili, secretary of Iran's supreme national security council. Jalili met with al-Assad to discuss resolving the 17 month long civil war and rescuing several Iranians who were kidnapped over the weekend in Syria.

State TV showed footage of Jalili and al-Assad in the first video of the president that has surfaced since last month.

Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, with victory looking more likely there are fears that the various factions factions that make up the opposition in Syria could soon turn on each other. Nic Robertson reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Syrian rebels execute alleged Assad gunmen, summary justice just a week ago. It is what so many feared, Syria disintegrates, acts of revenge rise, deaths multiply as the uprising, turned armed conflict, turns complicated.

FAWAZ GERGES, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES PROFESSOR: I fear that next year you and I will not be talking about 20,000 Syrian casualties, we might be talking about 100,000 Syrian civilians killed.

ROBERTSON: Fawaz Gerges, a London based Middle East academic has seen it all before watching Syria's neighbors. For 15 years, sectarian civil war in his native Lebanon throughout the 80s and years of sectarian bloodletting last decade in Iraq.

GERGES: The foundation in Syria is there in terms of the complexity of the conflict, the multiple players that are intervening in Syria, the fact Syria has become a war by proxy, the bloodshed, sectarianism, tribalism.

ROBERTSON: When you look at the map, even this seems like an understatement. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Sunni states supporting the opposition. Shia Iran, its client Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq supporting Bashar al-Assad. Then you have the global standoff. The United States and Europe against China and Russia who support Assad.

And inside Syria, the sectarian breakdown looks like this: Sunnis across the majority of the country, 80 percent of the population. Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect of the Shia faith here in the west. The small dots of green more Shias. Kurds in the north here and here. Drews (ph) in the south. And 10 percent of the population are Christians here and here.

For more than a decade, Assad propped up his presidency on the premise with a minority in power, his Alawite Shia sect, the majority Sunnis, Christians and everyone else would be safe. Now his days are numbered, that logic seems set to rip the country apart.

GERGES: The Assad regime has succeeded in convincing a critical segment of the Syrian people, in particular minorities, that basically the Assad regime is the protector of minorities and that's why the conflict in Syria has taken on more and more sectarian connotations.

Three months ago, CNN's Becky Anderson talked to a trio of Syrians living in London, each with a different outlook.

AMMAR WAQQAF, SYRIAN SOCIAL CLUB: My name is Ammar Waqqaf. I'm a management consultant in the UK. I'm part of a group called the Syrian Social Club in London. And we promote regime reform, modern regime change.

ANAS NADER, SYRIAN STUDENT ACTIVIST: My name is Anas Nader. I'm a medical student here in London. I work closely with several groups such as AFAS (ph) and Stand By Syria to get information and raise awareness.

ROBERTSON: Back then, none expected a planned UN cease-fire to hold. They were right. Now they are worried.

NADER: To go back to a more peaceful revolution I think isn't possible anymore.

ROBERTSON: Not possible.

NADER: I don't think it's possible anymore, because the regime has overly militarized the entire country in many ways.

WAQQAF: The trends that we are seeing are that the -- the insurgency is becoming more violent and less accountable. They are shooting people in the streets in front of TV cameras.

ROBERTSON: In the past three months violence has escalated, death so numerous now, hard to pick out the worst. Possibly the Houla massacre that outraged the world. Regime thugs accused of killing more than 100 civilians in just one village.

The battles intensifying in the major cities, too. Ferocious fighting in the capital Damascus and the country's second city Aleppo. Assad feeling the heat, now turning his fighter jets on civilians. So bad, UN monitors are pulling out of Aleppo.

But the heart of the regime there have been casualties too. Four of Assad's security chiefs assassinated in a bombing. The prime minister just this week fleeing the country. If Assad loses his grip, many expect even worse.

WAQQAF: An immediate atmosphere of fear would sweep into everybody's mind and emotions then most probably people would start to think of protecting themselves. They would become even more defensive. And then we would be kissing Syria goodbye as we know it.

NADER: I think what's going to end up happening in a few months, the regime will maintain some control over some towns and some areas in Syria...

ROBERTSON: On a sectarian basis.

NADER: On a sectarian basis. And that's the battle that could take long. And no one knows that's a big unknown that could happen.

ROBERTSON: Syria is not a pretty picture. One former government official told me this week the country is committing suicide.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Plenty more still to come on Connect the World, but back now to Becky at the Olympic Park -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Right. We've got a result in the 1500 meters. And that we are going to bring you up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Right. Heading into the London games the man who organized the 2012 Olympics, Sebastian Coe, was the only man to successfully defend his 1500 meter title. Has it been matched? Did the Kenyan champion Asbel Kiprop equalize that record tonight? Well, the answer is a defining no. A surprise result. Algeria's Taoufik Makloufi won convincingly. This is the same man who was disqualified, let me tell you guys, earlier on this week. I was just explaining this to the guys. He qualified on Sunday, then ran the qualifying for the 800 meters and jogged around. The IAAF said this guy should be disqualified from all events, that was only revoked earlier on say when the Algerians said he'd had a dodgy leg in the 800 meter to pull out.

The guy, now, Olympic record tonight? I believe, or just? And winning the rest of the three Kenyans came nowhere.

AKABUSI: That just goes to show you, you know, there's no such thing as certainties in track and field athletics. I've seen that before in 1992 when I was running. Michael Johnson, Said (inaudible), Bob Curr (ph) all certainties. None of them did it. You don't win races on paper. Just inspired in the moment, boom, before you know it, someone else's delivery.

ANDERSON: And a roar from behind as Linford, Manzano, the American in silver and Iguider the Morroccan in third.

LINFORD CHRISTIE, OLYMPIC SPRINTER: As Kriss was saying, no man has a divine right to win the Olympic games. And everyone comes at a different game. When you get to the Olympics games all slates are wiped clean, reputation counts for nothing. And no one is afraid of anyone. You've got to go out there and -- you never know when you can pick up.

ANDERSON: Sebastian Coe, then, still retaining that record as back to back Olympic champion. You know, it hasn't been broken.

CHRISTIE: Sebastian Coe was -- was superb, a man ahead of his time. You know, that feat may be a little bit harder to reproduce now because a lot more countries are entering into events like the 1500 meters.

So, yep, stands out in history. He did it back then 20 years ago, but that was Jurassic Park now we're in the Olympic Park.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Did you buy that? It makes you two sound awfully old, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

AKABUSI: It makes him sound old. I wasn't joining in. I'm not a raptor.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: It's an amazing stadium, isn't it here?

AKABUSI: It's just incredible. It's pure theater, it's pure drama, it's surround sound, it's music, it's flashing lights and pipes, its DVD, enter the gladiator.

AKABUSI: And that goes direct (inaudible)

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: That's super guys. Stick with me, because we're going to do a lot more this evening as we move through this special edition, of course, of Connect the World.

Off the track some controversy today. Several of Cameroon's athletes have been confirmed missing. Now the country's head of mission to London 2012, David Ojong told CNN five boxers, one footballer and one swimmer haven't been seen in at least 24 hours. According to the UK home office the athletes are not in violation of British law until November 9 when their visas run out. We'll bring you more on that story as we get it, of course.

Also yesterday, a memorial service was held for the athletes who died in the massacre at the Munich Olympic games. Now it was held at the Guild Hall in London after the IOC rejected calls to include a minute of silence at the opening ceremony here in London last week.

Before the games, I spoke to Ankie Spitzer whose husband Andre was killed in the 1972 attacks. Have a listen to what she told me just a couple of weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPITZER: 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...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Ankie Spitzer there speaking to me earlier.

Still to come on this special edition of Connect the World, making waves back home, how South Africans are celebrating an Olympics to remember.

And Max will have the latest on an alleged financial scandal. The bank accused of carrying out secret transactions with Iran. All that, your headlines, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson with a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD from here at Olympic Park.

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster at CNN London. A round-up, now, of the top stories we're following for you this hour.

Danger and Diplomacy in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili, who promised continued support. For his part, Assad repeated his vow to cleanse Syria of terrorists. Meanwhile, the battle for Aleppo continues. Opposition sources say 27 people were killed there today, 140 nationwide.

Shares of the British bank Standard Chartered plunged today after New York state regulators claimed the bank helped Iran conceal $250 billion worth of transactions over nearly a decade. Shares closed down by more than 16 percent in London, at a ten-month low. Maggie Lake has more now for us from New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The 27-page report released by the New York Department of Financial Services was scathing and painted a picture of bank executives that knew they were breaking the law and who went to great lengths to hide their activity.

In one e-mail obtained by state regulators, a Standard Chartered director overseas sent a message to a US colleague that said, quote, "You f-ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with the Iranians?"

State regulators also accused the bank of conducting similar schemes with Myanmar, Libya, and Sudan. Standard Chartered rejected the NYDF's portrayal, saying the group's own review did not identify a single payment on behalf of any party that was designated at the time by the US government as a terrorist entity or organization.

Money-laundering experts say if regulators do indeed possess a trail of detailed e-mails, it could strengthen a criminal case against bank executives and bolster calls for the bank's license to be revoked. But one former bank regulator said it is not an open and shut case, especially if the bank was transparent with the authorities.

ROSS DELSTON, FORMER US BANKING REGULATOR: If, in fact, they did that, and their disclosure was full and complete and comprehensive and not selective and in some way narrow -- too narrow, then we have a real question here about why the state regulator acted so quickly, and why it acted alone.

LAKE: The Standard Chartered revelations come just one month after British bank HSBC was hit with a massive fine and its executives hauled in front of Congress to answer charges they laundered money for organized criminals and terrorist groups.

Standard Chartered executives have been ordered to appear in New York on August 15th to answer the allegations, but investors aren't waiting around. The bank's stock lost 16.5 percent in London trade.

Maggie Lake, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: A natural disaster is unfolding in the Philippines, where torrential rain and floods have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes. In Manila, nine members of one family were killed in a mudslide. And there's no letup in sight, with more downpours forecast.

Pop star Madonna is defending three members of a Russian female punk band. They face jail after a performance that insulted President Vladimir Putin. Prosecutors are recommending a three-year jail term after the band called Pussy Riot performed a protest song in a Cathedral.

The women have been charged with hooliganism, which carries a maximum seven-year jail term. Madonna, who's performing in Russia, said free speech is imperative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADONNA, SINGER: I'm against censorship, and I'm -- my whole career, I've always promoted freedom of expression, freedom of speech. So, obviously, I think what's happening to the m is unfair, and I hope that -- I hope that they do not have to serve seven years in jail. That would be a tragedy.

Through history, historically speaking, art always reflects what's going on socially. So, for me, it's hard to separate the idea of being an artist and being political.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Police have arrested a man in the US state of Ohio for carrying a loaded handgun, ammunition, and several knives into a movie and, in an eerie reminder of a tragedy a few weeks ago, it was a screening of the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Saturday's arrest came after the discovery of numerous weapons in the man's bag. Police then went on to search his home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY ARCURI, DETECTIVE, WESTLAKE POLICE: We found a lot of weapons in there, a lot of rifles, ammunition, gas masks, survivalist type of gear in there, a lot of it. We talked to his wife, we served her with the inventory for all the times we took. She says he's into that type of stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity has begun beaming back its first color images of the red planet. NASA says the 297 low-resolution images it received shows the rover had an exciting ride in its final descent to the surface. The rover, which cost $2.6 billion to develop, has 17 onboard cameras to capture the Martian landscape.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Let's go back to Becky, now, at the Olympic Park.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Max. Coming up after the break, the woman who broke the architectural mold to create waves at this, the Olympic Park. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right. It's August the 7th, day 11, and the crowds here at Olympic Park, particular at the stadium, being treated to another running fest tonight: 100 meters women's, they ran the 1500 meters, and in that, a surprise result for Algeria this evening.

Well, just as the athletes are the stars of the Olympic Games, London's 2012 venues are the stars of the Olympic Park, and one of the standouts is the aquatic center. For this month's Leading Woman, I met the Iraqi-born architect behind that structure, one Zaha Hadid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): If all the world's as stage, as Shakespeare tells us, then at this moment, London is the biggest stage in the world, as the city hosts the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

A visionary behind one of the major sporting venues is this architect. She designed the spectacular aquatic center.

ANDERSON (on camera): Aquatic center, tell me about it.

ZAHA HADID, ARCHITECT, LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE: It was an interesting project. We did that competition of that, must be more than seven years ago, now.

ANDERSON (voice-over): It cost a reported $400 million to build. Among its features, a dramatic wave-like roof. It's 160 meters long and 90 meters wide. It's more than one of a dozen buildings around the world that bear her imprint, making her one of the most prolific and lauded architects of our time.

This foremost visionary is Zaha Hadid.

For an athlete, there's no bigger stage than the Olympic Games. The same can be said for an architect. After all, how many architects have toured one of their buildings with Britain's Queen Elizabeth and had a world audience of more than a billion see their creation?

Zaha Hadid is that rare architect. Before the Games began, I visited Hadid at her exhibition space in London. Hadid exudes the confidence of a woman who's known the path she'd take since childhood.

HADID: I always wanted to be an architect, since -- since I was maybe, I don't know, seven, eight, nine, ten years old. I can't remember now. I think I saw a shore in Baghdad which intrigued me.

ANDERSON (on camera): You were born, of course, in Baghdad.

HADID: I was born in Baghdad, I went to school in Iraq, I came here to boarding school that I wanted to be in, then I came back.

ANDERSON (voice-over): After studying architecture here in London, she goes on to win a series of design competitions over several years. But her buildings are never constructed. She develops a reputation as an architect on paper.

HADID: I didn't have a good enough family connection. I wasn't British, I wasn't European. I don't -- there was a lot of pressure at the time to move to the States because I was thinking something would happen there.

ANDERSON: But she stays in Britain. In 2003, her fortunes change when the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art becomes her first major project to come to fruition. It's also the first museum in the US designed by a female architect.

The following year, another coup when she wins the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, the first woman to do so.

HADID: It's a fact that it's a fantastic day for me, and it's a great deal for me.

ANDERSON (on camera): What did that mean to you?

HADID: When the Pritzker came, I think a lot of people were really very excited. And it was really very emotional.

ANDERSON (voice-over): At her exhibition space, we find models of projects she's completed or envisioned.

ANDERSON (on camera): Zaha, tell me about this project.

HADID: It's in Baku, which is a cultural center. It's made of, really, three projects that makes it into one. This is the library, the concert hall, and the museum, and they converge together in the middle for the -- in the lobby.

ANDERSON: Why do you think there are so few leading women architects?

HADID: It's very difficult. I really don't understand why. When I was a student, there were lots of contemporaries of mine who were women in my class. When I was teaching, there were lots of female students.

I don't know. I think that women also, once they became more liberated, they wanted to do everything themselves. The woman has to do everything. Work, do the house, the child. I think it's not possible. There's too much to do.

ANDERSON: If other women see you as a mentor or as an inspiration, does that sit OK with you?

HADID: Yes, it does. I used to not like being called a woman architect. I'd say, "I'm an architect, I'm not just a woman architect." Because the guys would tap me on the head and say, "You're OK for a girl." So --

ANDERSON: Did they? Really?

HADID: They did it, really. But I've seen an incredible amount of -- need from other women for reassurance that it could be done. So I don't mind that at all.

ANDERSON (voice-over): In the coming weeks, you'll find out more about Zaha Hadid's designs, which include jewelry and furniture.

HADID: You can try it. Come on. Can I sit down?

ANDERSON (on camera): The seed amongst the flowered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN with me, Becky Anderson, at Olympic Park. Coming up: from Despair to delight. How the host nation has swapped pessimism for pride.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right, you're back with us at the Olympic Park. If there was a gold medal for moaning, then Britain would surely have been a contender in the run-up to the Olympics, but as Jim Boulden now reports, the doom and gloom and the whinging disappeared, replaced, let me tell you, but a new-found pride. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heathrow Airport would grind to a halt. Roads would be clogged. Taxis wouldn't be able to get around. Security holes had to be filled by the military. The British press had a field day in the weeks before the London 2012 Summer Games.

Well, never mind.

(MUSIC - HALLELUJAH CHORUS)

BOULDEN: From the oh-so-happy purple-clad volunteers that have spread out in London with their maps and the wave to Great Britain's quite surprising gold medals haul. It's all smiles now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just true Brits. We just go in there -- and we made everybody so welcome, I think. Everywhere, every -- I'm just - - I could cry. I really could cry.

BOULDEN: Michael Payne has been to 16 Olympic Games and has the trading pins to prove it. He says countries always fret.

MICHAEL PAYNE, FORMER IOC DIRECTOR: But in many nations, the two weeks before the Games, there is a sort of a sense of paranoia that it's not going to work, we're going to embarrass ourselves on the world stage, it'll be a disaster. And then, once the Opening Ceremony takes place, there's a major sigh of relief.

BOULDEN: In fact, pollster's say Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony did the trick.

CORALIE PRING, COMRES POLLING COSULTANCY: We found that 83 percent of viewers said that they were impressed by the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Secondly, there's also the pride that Britain is taking in its British athletes, the medals being won part of that. And also, the number of visitors that we are seeing coming to Britain.

BOULDEN: Visitors like these French ticket holders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the Olympic Games create an enjoying feel.

BOULDEN: Even after complaints about empty seats in the first few days, a sigh of relief, now, perhaps, for organizers.

PAYNE: It's all played off and, frankly, probably gone a lot smoother than they even dared hope for.

BOULDEN: And even kind words for Games organizer Sebastian Coe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seb Coe's done fantastic at it. Fantastic, Seb has done. I take my hat off to him as a true Brit.

BOULDEN: And these true Brits have rediscovered their Union flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Team GB!

BOULDEN: And Team GB has temporarily replaced sometimes rude football chants at venues around the country.

BOULDEN (on camera): But soon enough, the foamy fingers will have gone, and so will the happy, smiley volunteers, and Londoners will once again be complaining about the weather and the public transport. But maybe, just maybe, some of the Olympic magic will have rubbed off.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And let's hope it lasts. Britain may have caught Olympic fever, but what about the rest of the world? Let's head to South Africa and to China, shall we, to find out?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: I'm Jaime Florcruz in Beijing, and here, many residents are waking up a bit later than usual, having stayed up as late as 3:00 or 4:00 AM to watch their favorite Olympic Games, extensively covered by the Chinese media.

Many local channels cover it live, especially events which feature outstanding Chinese athletes. Some sports fans even organize viewing parties, complete with snack and beers, to watch the Games at home. Given London's and Beijing's time difference, they watch them into the early morning.

They also turn to newspapers and the news media for all the Olympic news, including the controversy surrounding Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen and China's disqualified badminton stars.

Team China has had its share of disappointments and successes, doing especially well in ping pong, diving, and badminton. But they also have pulled off gold medals in other events, giving sports fans even more reasons to stay up late.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nkepile Mabuse in Johannesburg, where in 2008, Team South Africa returned from Beijing with zero medals. But London has been a fairytale, sparking huge interest in the Games.

Take a look at this. The media is covering the Olympics here prominently almost on a daily basis. And the fact that South Africa has made history on several scores is boosting national pride here. Swimmer Cameron van der Burgh got the momentum going when he set a new world record in the 100 meter breaststroke.

And then, who would've thought? Twenty-year-old Chad le Cloe beat his role model Michael Phelps in the 100 meter butterfly preliminaries. And then, Sizwe Ndlovu, a black South African, made international headlines for bagging gold in rowing.

And then, the darling of the media, Oscar Pistorius, made history by becoming the first double amputee ever to compete at the Olympics. Pistorius came last in his 400 meter semifinals, but for many of his fans here at home and across the globe, just him being there was a golden moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: I want to get a look at how everybody is doing in this medal count in a slightly different way. We can see that the US and China are dominating with what are -- let's bring them up -- these swollen bubbles, as it were.

Australia's had a bit of an injection today with a win at the Velodrome courtesy of Anna Meares, and tonight, Sally Pearson's win in the 100 meter hurdles, four gold medals, doubling their medal -- gold medal count from this morning, now in the Australian swag, as it were.

Germany picking up a number of medals today, mainly silver in gymnastics, cycling, and dressage. The German gold medal tally is now at five.

Let's have a quick look at some other countries in these bubbles. Kenya, there you've got five medals, all up. It was tipped to be eight after the 1500 meters final tonight, but it wasn't Kenya's night. The terrific trio trounced in their pet event, missing out on a podium finish.

It is that time of the day when I'm just going to get really partisan with my two British guests, here, Kriss Akabusi and Linford Christie, still with us. You've only got to look at that bubble map to see how Team GB have done.

This is -- I can hardly believe I'm saying it -- the best Olympics we've had so far as medals are concerned in a hundred years. You guys know what it feels like, both of you, to be part of Team GB. How must these guys be feeling tonight, both of you?

LINFORD CHRISTIE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they're feeling pretty happy, pretty upbeat. And one of the best things about our team is that, unlike most other countries, because we're so small, we have the same athletes on the team maybe for two or three years, so we get to know each other, we get to build up a good rapport with each other, so the team morale is always good.

ANDERSON: So, Chris Hoy, tonight, in the cycling, Kriss, also winning gold in the dressage. I don't know how much of that you do on a regular basis. I certainly don't do very much, but good for them for doing that.

Team GB's golden day began, of course, with Alistair Brownlee's victory in the triathlon, and then his brother coming third. That's a hell of an event, isn't it?

KRISS AKABUSI, FORMER BRITISH SPRINT AND HURLDING CHAMPION: Yes, the triathlon's superb. And the Brownlee brothers, to be fair, over the last three or four years, have been dominant in that event, the triathlon. So, that was no surprise.

But certainly what you can see, there's a great big momentum, great big role, and what I call the social facilitation effect. Having the Games in your own back yard gives you a 20 percent uplift. You talked about Australia. 2000, Australia were up there. Now it's 2012, we are up there flying high.

ANDERSON: One of the questions a lot of people have been asking me as I've been presenting the Olympics for CNN from here is, what is about a team like Australia that's been so sort of unsuccessful this time. They've won something like 16 or 17 silvers.

I know everybody wants to win gold, but you guys will know better than me about the investment that needs to go into athletics, track and field, and all these other events ahead of big events like this, right?

CHRISTIE: I think what's happening, Australia was way ahead of everyone. They started the industry with sport, they start everything, they're trying to get talent ID and everything else. So, they were way ahead. And all that's happened now is a lot of other countries have taken the blueprint of what Australia did --

ANDERSON: Twenty years ago.

CHRISTIE: Exactly. And we've caught up.

ANDERSON: Yes.

CHRISTIE: And also, we are using the Australian coaches and the Australian doctors, they're starting to get them on our team.

AKABUSI: And also, Australia has a big land mass, but a very small population. It's actually per head, per capita, they are still doing very, very well, punching above their weight. It's just that we are used to seeing the golden -- green and gold of theirs really flying high and mashing up everybody. But this time, we've all caught up, and we're in the dance.

ANDERSON: This has been Britain's most successful Olympic Games since London hosted it way back in 1908. Neither you nor I were around at that time just about.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Dinosaur. The dinosaurs --

ANDERSON: Twenty-two golds in the bag, still sitting in third place in the overall medal table behind China and the United States. And it's going to be a long time before anybody's going to beat out those two nations, isn't it?

AKABUSI: Yes, exactly right. The big thing for United Kingdom now is, can we continue? Can we actually maximize this and can we leverage the legacy --

ANDERSON: Yes.

AKABUSI: -- which everyone's been talking about.

ANDERSON: And you talked about that a lot, haven't you? Do you reckon that's going to happen?

CHRISTIE: Well, I hope so. I mean, we depend on funding quite a lot. And normally, because we're so successful, they give you less. So, we're hoping that -- once the Olympics are over, they cut everything back. So, we're hoping the government won't cut the funding, we'll get more funding. Because if we can do it now, with the world championships coming up, we can do great.

ANDERSON: Bring on Rio 2016. And we haven't even finished here. Tonight's Parting Shots for you -- chaps, thank you very much, indeed -- we're going to say farewell to our Olympic windsurfers, riding a wave of glory for the last time, Spain celebrating a win in the women's windsurfing.

But it was a bittersweet day. The sport's been given the heave-ho from the lineup of the 2016 Olympics, being replaced by kiteboarding, something Linford doesn't do very well at all.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: You'll take that from me. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT the WORLD, thank you for watching. Max back with the headlines after this.

END