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CNN Tours Britain Ahead of Referendum on EU; Funeral Procession for Boxing Great Muhammad Ali; France Plays Romania In Friday's Opener. Aired 10:30-11:30a ET
Aired June 10, 2016 - 10:30:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, INTERNATIONAL DESK HOST: Welcome to the "INTERNATIONAL DESK." Thanks for joining us. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.
The funeral procession for Muhammad Ali is about to make its way through his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Former president, Bill Clinton, will
be among those delivering eulogies at the memorial service just a few hours away. Stay with CNN for live coverage.
Muslims are praying at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on this first Friday of Ramadan, but after Wednesday's terror attack in Tel Aviv, Israel has
barred entry for more than 80,000 Palestinians and shut down the border crossings with Gaza and the West Bank.
Hillary Clinton will campaign next week in Wisconsin with U.S. President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama formally endorsed Clinton for president on
Thursday. She also received endorsements from Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump.
Well, less than two weeks to go to Britain's referendum on whether to leave or stay in the E.U., and judging from the huge spike in voter registration,
people are interested in this vote. Well, our very own Richard Quest is touring the country to find out what they think. Here's how he set off.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As we caravan across the United Kingdom, our class campervan has history of its own. It's already
enjoyed plenty of adventures.
Let's be honest, this beloved Bedford is hardly brand new. It was built in Britain back in 1978, the decade when the U.K. joined the European economic
Oh, for its time it had all the modern things, but no airbags, no ABS braking or ESP. Travel in this campervan more like a wing and prayer. What
it lacks in electronics it makes up for in the rear.
It has its own cocktail cabinet, bunk beds, a cooking stove and, of course, the kitchen sink. There's even a shower for the truly adventurous.
For two years it was owned by the Jackson family, who bought it in a very sorry state. They named it Freddy. They painted Freddy blue. It became
their holiday home.
NICK JACKSON, CAMPERVAN'S FORMER OWNER: It's just great. It's old. It's not new. It's not flash, but it's English, you know. It's great.
QUEST: By any definition, Freddy was frail around the edges, in dire need of some tender loving care, some sprucing up. And it was straight down to
the garage for an assessment on his mechanical capabilities.
QUEST (on-camera): What's going to be our biggest risk on the engine frame?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) it's got a timing belt. I don't know what the timing belt looks like.
QUEST (voice-over): The mechanics set to work, parts were replaced, a thorough going over. Then, a paint job, transforming our Brexit bus, adding
bright retro colors befitting the 1970s. Sign writing splashed across the sides. Our CNN logo across the roof. It can be spotted by drones overhead.
So after a spick and polish, Freddy was fit for the road, or so we thought. The engine and Freddy fell at the first hurdle, unceremoniously trailered
away. It was, perhaps, clear more fine-tuning was required.
But parts for a 1978 Bedford are not 10 a penny. Our stalwart producer, Pepper, again came to the rescue, putting out an appeal on the Bedford
owner's Facebook page.
Kevin Wicks came to the rescue. We completed our filming. The long and winding road from Freddy, from holiday home, to Brexit bus. Fingers
crossed. I know he's ready to roar once again up the road of Britain. Richard Quest, CNN, London.
CURNOW: Saying good-bye to The Greatest. Today is the day that Muhammad Ali will be buried.
Let's go to Martin Savidge. We know that this is the beginning of the funeral procession that will slowly make its way through his hometown of
Louisville, Kentucky, come past where you are, Martin.
We also know that the casket has been put into the hearse. This procession an hour and a half late, but, as you've said all morning, this is also a
celebration of the life of somebody who touched so many people.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, this is not -- this is not a funeral mode that you're feeling here, at least not on the street where he
grew up. This is a festival. This is a celebration, and the anticipation is growing.
There is just about anywhere you could watch this procession on the streets of Louisville. Most people, many people here at least, believe this is the
only spot, because this is the street that has the closest connection to the life of Muhammad Ali.
We think of him as a man of the world, almost as if he spontaneously happened. He didn't. He was born, he was raised. In fact, it was on this
street, and a lot of people on this street now have now, at one point his family, their families, they knew one another. And they can tell you
stories of just how accessible he was. Even after he became a world champ, he was still a champion of the people, and that's what he's known as now.
It's such a diverse crowd. Such a mixed crowd of people all with their own stories. T-shirts that say "I Am Muhammad Ali," others that say, "I Am Ali"
or "I Am The Greatest." It's not somebody proudly boasting. It's to show that they feel this connection. This is a sense that he has passed along.
That's the legacy he is sharing with these people, which is why they want to be here.
And this was the reason for the procession, because that's what Muhammad Ali wanted. He wanted one last drive around his town, and so that is being
granted at this time. And for many of these people, they couldn't get tickets to go to the public memorial service. They were gone too quick.
So the street here becomes the setting. The chairs are, you know, coming out of people's homes, and they're waiting. It's a very warm day, but
they'll wait as long as it takes. They're hoping, hoping, it might stop here just for a minute. We'll have to see, Robyn.
CURNOW: That procession is making its way towards where you are, slowly. I think it's a 16 to 18 car procession. People all along that route so far,
lined up, paying their respects. And just the journey it's taking, also symbolic, because it's the journey in many ways that Muhammad Ali took.
This extraordinary tale from very humble beginnings to "the greatest."
SAVIDGE: Exactly right. Yes, and so this route isn't just haphazard. This route actually goes by a lot of those sort of milestones in his life, those
areas that are important. Not just his home in which he grew up, the Muhammad Ali Center, and there are a number of places along the way that he
will pass that were so important to his life growing up here.
So, you know, that's why the route takes this sort of very winding, twisting way. It eventually will get to the cemetery. They timed it. When
they did the run through, they said it took about maybe an hour and a half, but who knows today with all the people that could be out there and those
who wish to get as close as they can to procession?
And at the last stretch that goes into the cemetery, the road will be actually covered with rose petals, the entire way, as one last tribute to
"the greatest" and quite a remarkable one everywhere you look. One scene topped by another. But people from around the world have come not just to
this street but to Louisville to remember.
CURNOW: Yes, as you were talking there, we showed the images. There is a camera shot of those rose petals already laid out on the tarmac. A fitting
tribute to a man who threw some hard punches, but it's rose petals that are being laid out for him.
And again, to reflect on his beginnings there in Louisville, Kentucky, we know that this procession will be going past his childhood home where you
are, weaving past the Central High School where he graduated, continue past the Columbia gym where he trained, where he first learned to box.
Also I know that there's a wonderful memorial of a bicycle hanging, because that tells the story of how -- the reason he learned to box was because
someone had stolen his bike. So all along and throughout this town there are these wonderful connections to a man who made such a difference to so
SAVIDGE: Yes, the bicycle is one of my favorite memorials. There are many that have been set up, of course, at the Muhammad Ali Center, at the house
here. And everybody has their own sort of one with a photograph or with some kind of image.
But the bicycle, because the story is, of course, when he was 12 years of age, somebody stole his bicycle. And he was angry, and he said he was going
to go out and whoop somebody. And he was overheard by a police officer, who actually ran a boxing program for youth and said, maybe you ought to learn
how to fight first, and, of course, that's how it all began.
So in some respects, I guess we owe a debt of thanks to whoever took the bicycle, because it changed the course of a life and as a result, changed
the course of all of our lives. So that's why that bicycle hanging up at a university not far away, that's the significance of it.
Sometimes you never know the kernel that grows into a giant tree because of something that happened long ago. And people here can tell you similar
stories like that.
Their dad used to drive him to training. Or their grandfather would sit on the street as Muhammad would come by running in the morning. There is a
And the thing about Muhammad Ali was that unlike other celebrities, he did not shy away from the people. Even as his disease progressed, he was unable
to speak, but he still shook hands. He still smiled. He still would reach out and touch someone. He would still always take a moment for anyone, and
that's another reason why he's dearly loved. Robyn?
CURNOW: Well, as his funeral procession makes his way towards the burial site, people are seeming to reach out to him on this final journey, Martin.
We know that people are throwing flowers at the procession, and they are also chanting "Ali, Ali, Ali" as the car, the casket drives by.
It's a very powerful sight, seeing a man who did manage, as you say, to touch so many people. And true to his sort of giant character, the fact
that he planned his own funeral, that he wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. And we know that famous people, celebrities will be there, but
also members of all faiths.
SAVIDGE: Right. I think that's the important thing to Muhammad Ali was that yes, he loves the fact that there are great leaders and celebrities who've
come to pay their respects. But it's the people that he would love more, and that's why he decided to make this kind of drive.
You know, the planning for this funeral goes back at least 10 years. The city's been planning for it. The community's been planning for it. His
family, of course, and Muhammad Ali had a say and said directly the sort of things he wanted.
Yesterday's Islamic funeral service, that he wanted. The procession today, that he wanted. And then, of course, you know, the remembrance. He knew
that would have to take place in some kind of arena. He wanted that as well.
But he actually has his fingerprints all over this. And there again, the commonalty with the people. He is one with everyone, and he wanted them all
to be able to participate. So even after the tickets were gone, there is still a way to see Muhammad Ali and to wish him on his journey.
And that's the other thing that the mayor keeps stressing. He says this is about sending him off with the best possible sendoff a person can have, not
in sadness, not down cast but in celebration of a life that was so well lived, a remarkable life that made so many transitions and even today still
has the ability to bring people together in ways you seldom see, Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, under the hot Kentucky sun, people trying to capture the moment, as you can see there, with their cell phones. Saying good-bye.
Lining up there on the side of the road.
Let's talk about what is going to unfold in the coming hours. This memorial service, 30,000 tickets have been distributed to the public, but it is a --
it is a mix up of very different people.
And let's talk about who is going to be speaking. President Bill Clinton. We've got comedian Billy Crystal. We also know that the Turkish leader
Erdogan will be there as well as the king of Jordan.
What do all these people mean to Muhammad Ali? What did he mean to them?
SAVIDGE: I think it's more the other way around. I mean, it is what he means to them. Meaning Muhammad Ali means something to all of these,
whether you're a world leader or whether you're just a person on the street.
And, you know, of course when you're talking about the king of Jordan, when you're talking about president of Turkey, there is the Islamic root. You
know, you have to remember Muhammad Ali is such a significant figure in the Muslim world.
He transitioned. He was a convert. He started off as Cassius Clay, and that's how he was known on the streets in which he lived. But then soon
after he won his first fight and after he began to get this notoriety, he transitioned and moved to Islam, a very controversial move at that time but
one that transformed his life.
And so I think there you see world leaders coming to pay respect to his faith. But not just that. To his sport, and then on top of that, to what he
has done for so many different people, races and beyond. He means a great deal.
CURNOW: Martin Savidge, thank you so much there in Louisville, Kentucky.
Of course we'll keep an eye on developments in the Muhammad Ali funeral. But there's also another big story. Christina Macfarlane has that next.
She's up with a preview of Euro 2016. Hi there.
CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Robyn. Thanks very much.
And yes, of course, we are counting down the hours until kickoff for Euro 2016. Over the next month, 24 teams from across Europe will be battling it
out for the right to become this year's European champions.
But there's a lot of football to be played before the final on July 10th. Kicking off with the host France against Romania. And France coach, Didier
Deschamps, says he wants the opener to set the tone for the tournaments to give the French people a moment of escape after a year in which terror
threats and social problems have been dominating the agenda.
It's tradition for the host to take part in the opening game, and they will face Romania, assigned back in the finals having failed to qualify in 2012.
The first game group A will take place at the Stade de France in Saint Denise, kicking off 9:00 p.m. local time this evening.
And that is where we can go live now to our Alex Thomas, who's been gauging the moods in the streets of Paris. And Alex, with so much riding on this
opening game for France, how important is it for Didier Deschamps and his team to get off to a winning start today?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely crucial, Christine, as it is for any of the other 23 teams competing at this European championship over the
next month. But yes, lots of eyes on the host, France.
We're a little more than four hours away from that kickoff you explained we are counting down to. Before that, there will be an opening ceremony for
Euro 2016, and it will be led and headlined by award-winning global music artist, David Getter. There will be 600 people taking part in the opening
ceremony, including 150 can-can dancers, but it will be the high kicking players of France that will take to the pitch in trying to get an opening
win against Romania.
And you mentioned how Didier Deschamps, the coach, was speaking on the eve of this match. He knows full well what success will mean to France. He was
part of the 1998 team that won the World Cup here on home soil and went on to win the Euros two years later. France last hosted these European
championships back in 1984, where Michel Platini led Les Blues' side blaze to glory.
But let's hear the thoughts now of France's current captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who's trying to play down their tags as favorites.
HUGO LLORIS, FRENCH SOCCER CAPTAIN AND GOALKEEPER (through translator): Honestly, we don't feel like favorites. I think we haven't done anything
yet. We haven't proven anything compared against teams like Spain and Germany, European champions and world champions. But the fact that we can
play and evolve on French soil will give us a positive point. It will give us a bit extra against the other teams. We have to use it as an extra
THOMAS: We've slowly been building up to the kickoff here at the Stade de France in the northern suburbs of Paris. It's difficult to gauge the
atmosphere in the center of town from where we are, Christina.
We're hearing reports, though, that huge fan zone at the Eiffel Tower in central Paris that can hold up to 90,000 people, according to organizers,
is nowhere near as full as what we were expecting. Whether or not that's anything to do with the talk about the terror threat is hard to gauge at
this point. But certainly, the atmosphere is getting there, if not quite carnival level just yet, Christina.
MACFARLANE: Thanks very much, Alex. Glad to hear things are moving along smoothly amidst all those security concerns.
So how many French stars would you pick for your ultimate 11 Euro dream team? You can go and make your selections right now at cnn.com/euro2016.
And just a quick reminder to join Owen Hargreaves, Alex Thomas and Amanda Davies for CNN's Euro 2016 kickoff special in just over an hour from now,
breaking down everything you need to know about the tournament. That's at 6:00 p.m. time in Paris only on CNN.
Now, as you've seen in the past half hour, thousands of fans have been gathering all morning on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky to pay tribute
to Muhammad Ali, whose funeral is due to take place in just over three hours' time. In the past few minutes, the funeral procession you can see
there, has gotten underway, a final journey taking Ali back past the little-known boxing gym in his hometown where it all began.
And while fans reminisce about the more glittering achievements of his career, it was at the summer Olympic games in 1960 where Ali first made his
mark then as the unknown 19-year-old Cassius Clay where he blew away the competition, winning all four fights to take gold. And one man who is in
Louisville today to honor that memory is the head of the international Olympic committee, Thomas Bach, who joins us now.
Mr. Bach, thank you so much for joining us on "World Sport." Why did you feel it was important to be there in Louisville today?
THOMAS BACH, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PRESIDENT: Because Muhammad Ali was a great Olympic champion, and he was a champion who transcended
sports. He started his international career by winning an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960. He created one of the highlights of the history of
the Olympic games and one of the greatest moments also in his life by lighting the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta '96. And he came full circle when
then carrying about the Olympic flag in London 2012. So he's a great champion to remember forever.
MACFARLANE: Did you ever meet the man himself? Do you have any personal anecdotes about that famous charisma of his?
BACH: Muhammad Ali in all his life was always a very close to the Olympic values with this fight against any kind of discrimination, his fight for
respect, for all human beings and for tolerance. He was living these Olympic values. And he was even sacrificing his sporting titles for his
human convictions, and this is what makes a difference between a winner and a real great champion.
MACFARLANE: With his connection to the Olympics, as you've explained, do you have any plans to commemorate him at the forthcoming games in Rio at
BACH: I'm sorry. I can hardly hear you. Could you repeat the question?
MACFARLANE: That's fine. I'm asking -- do you have any plans to commemorate Muhammad Ali at the forthcoming Olympic games in Rio?
BACH: There now it's the moment to commemorate him here in Louisville and pay tribute to him, and the International Olympic Committee will do so by
handing over in his honor the Olympic flag to his widow, Lonnie Ali, and in such a way, making him unforgettable in the Olympic movement.
MACFARLANE: Thomas Bach, thank you so much for joining us from Louisville in Kentucky.
BACH: OK. Thank you very much.
MACFARLANE: And CNN will -- thank you. CNN will bring you that memorial service live from Ali's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Our sports
coverage starts Friday at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. in London only on CNN.
MACFARLANE: Welcome back. With Nyquist now out of the running, this Saturday, horse racing fans across the globe will have their eyes solely
fixed on Exaggerator, who has gone 1-2 in the Preakness and Kentucky Derby and is now the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes in New York. Ahead of the
race, "Winning Post" has been to meet the brothers who have taken this speedy colt to the top of the flat racing world.
ALY VANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Exaggerator, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Kent, is going for the final leg of
the Triple Crown after coming first in the Preakness stakes and a charging second in the Kentucky Derby.
KENT DESORMEAUX, EXAGGERATOR'S JOCKEY: The most amazing part about this situation is my brother trains him. We're two little country boys racing in
the American classics, and it's just a story book story.
VANCE: The Desormeuxs were the first trainer-jockey brothers to win the Preakness in its 141-year history.
KEITH DESORMEAUX, EXAGGERATOR'S TRAINER: The results that we've attained with Exaggerator is because of the magic set of hands that Kent's been
with. Kent's in the hall of fame not because he's lucky. It's because he's good.
VANCE: With this year's Kentucky Derby winner, Nyquist, missing Belmont with a virus, there'll be no rematch between the two rivals. It's a
testament to Exaggerator that he's run in all three Triple Crown races. But after a long string of races, the question remains, will Exaggerator have
the resilience to add yet another big prize to his name?
KENT DESORMEAUX: He's oh-my-god-so-fast to turn afoot. I mean, he's like a Ferrari. You can go from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds, and that's what I have to
stretch out. That's going to be my job in the Belmont.
The role has changed now. Everybody's going to want to be where I am and wonder where I am. So I hope to god they all take their horses out of their
normal situations, their normal comfort levels and all want to be around Exaggerator, because Exaggerator's going to be where I'm comfortable. And I
enjoy that, and I hope the jockeys aren't listening.
VANCE: Race goers wonder whether the Desormeaux brothers' strategy will hold up under the pressure of race day. Although Exaggerator breaks from
post 11, the team have every confidence in this energetic and playful colt. Aly Vance for CNN.
MACFARLANE: Well, that's all for this edition of "World Sport." I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. Robyn Curnow returns now with more from the
"International Desk" after this short break.
ROBYN CURNOW, INTERNATIONAL DESK HOST: Welcome to the "INTERNATIONAL DESK." I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for joining me.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali will be laid to rest in the coming hours in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Right now, the funeral procession is
tracing his early years past his boyhood home, the high school he attended, and the gym where he learned to box.
As people in Louisville and around the world remember Muhammad Ali, his daughter Laila joined us a short time ago to share some of her memories.
LAILA ALI, MUHAMMAD ALI'S DAUGHTER: He loved people, and I think that's the main thing. He loved kissing babies. He loved, you know, making everyone
feel special, especially those that most people wouldn't notice, you know, whether it's the housekeeper or the janitor or, you know, the trash man.
Those are the people that he really paid extra attention to.
CURNOW: He just loved people. Martin Savidge, we're going to join you now, because the response from those in Louisville is indicative of that. He's
getting a wonderful good-bye.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's getting a remarkable good-bye. I mean, it truly, truly is. I've been able to look at some of the images that
are coming from the procession itself, and it's astounding and very moving to watch.
You know, the streets are lined. Traffic stops, of course. People have waited in the hot sun for a long time. Many are tossing flowers that
actually cling to the hearse. So it says a lot.
And you can hear them chanting. So I can imagine for Muhammad Ali's family that are riding in that procession, this has to be quite moving and exactly
what Muhammad Ali would have wanted. I'm sure that's also what they're saying. They're saying everything you're watching here is exactly what
Muhammad Ali had planned for and wanted to see, including what's going on here, which is the anticipation growing on this street where Muhammad Ali
These people have been here since before the sun came up. The numbers have grown tremendously. If you just want to have an idea, I don't know, the
house in the background, pink maybe if you can see it -- you may be looking at the procession -- that is his boyhood home. It was recently restored.
It's now open to the public. And that's why people have come here.
There are many places in the city you could watch this procession, but for most, this is the magic spot. And a lot of these people are neighbors,
they're relatives, they're friends or their grandparents were friends. The connections go back, and they run very deep, Robyn.
CURNOW: And as his daughter was saying, even if you didn't know his family, and you weren't from Louisville, Kentucky, he liked people, and people
seemed to respond to his charisma and his story and his strength. And that's going to certainly play out today, particularly with the memorial
service and those who are coming.
SAVIDGE: Right. Everybody feels a connection. That's one of the unique things about the celebrity of Muhammad Ali. He was world famous, but he was
never so famous that he could not spare a moment to talk to someone.
And even after the progression of the disease had taken away his ability to talk, he would still smile at people. He would still come up and touch
them. He would still interact even if it was with his eyes, and people loved that. They loved the fact that they felt like oh, my gosh, he's
talking to me or he's talking to my child.
He gave of his time to everyone as if he had all the time in the world, and that is a very unique kind of skill on top of the things he's remembered
for. And that's -- the professional career is part of what that afternoon session is all about the memorial service, remembering him as an athlete,
remembering him as an ambassador to the world, remembering him for the changes he brought about in understandings of race and religion.
So many things beyond just a pair of boxing gloves. And so you'll have, you know, kings and you'll have presidents and you will have the public all
coming together to remember the man that impacted each and every one of them. It's extraordinary, really, Robyn.
CURNOW: And as you say, he had been suffering from Parkinson's Disease for 30 years. He was out of the public -- out of public life in the sense of
his career was over, but still, his story resonated and particularly just how determined he was when he converted to Islam and also when he was anti
the Vietnam War. He made very political statements that were controversial at the time, but still looking back, people had huge respect for him and
that's one of the reasons they're coming out today.
SAVIDGE: Yes, he was lightning rod, especially in the early days because of the very public stance he took. He was extremely outspoken, and for
athletes at that time, that just wasn't heard of. It was the manager that got in front of the camera or talked to the reporters. It wasn't the
And he was braggadocio about himself. He got to be known as the "Louisville Lip." I mean, there are so many things that made him stand out. And then
there were the controversial stands that he took.
But he got past all of that in part because of his tremendous talent and because of his tremendous personality and evolved. He was always evolving.
And I think that that's the evolution people have come to understand, that he was sort of ahead of the public and he was saying, come along, be with
me, I'm about including everyone, regardless of your belief, regardless of your race, regardless of your political stance.
And that's what people have come to respect. That's why you have people from all walks of life that are now lining the procession route, that are
standing here on the street, that have come from Manchester or they've come from Bangladesh, all because they can tell a personal story of somehow,
Muhammad Ali has touched their lives as well as those from Louisiana, and those that have come from just down the road. They all can share that same
spirit of Muhammad Ali.
CURNOW: I have in front of me a fantastic opinion piece that was written in "The New York Times," and they called him a political poet and tie it up
with all of his sporting achievements and the kind of icon he became was very much his big mouth and the lyricism by which he had such a big mouth.
And that also, I think, not only entertained people but made people listen.
SAVIDGE: He did. I mean, so many lines he had, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," "Don't count the days, make the days count." He was a
philosopher in those very short kind of catchy phrases. I mean, that was raping before even raping came to what it is today.
So that's why he was able to communicate with people. He could express deep felt ideas in a couple of words, and that would catch on. And you got
exactly what he meant. So yes, I don't think it's wrong to sort of refer to him as a poet of his time as well as a man who had an incredible athletic
ability and then on top of that who had the world at his feet.
At one time, he was probably the most widely recognized person in the entire world, and it never seemed to go to his head.
CURNOW: And the fact that he was one of the most familiar faces in the entire world, one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, he
understood the responsibility that came with it. And the fact that he was also a black man and what that meant, the images of him, basically saying I
am the greatest during some very tumultuous racial times within the U.S. and across the world, he had a power and a symbolism that he used.
SAVIDGE: Right. And you could look at that and sometimes people would say, oh, you know, he's just bragging or he's making claims to something he
cannot back up, but that's not true. Athletically, he was the greatest. I mean, the way he could fight, the style that he had, transformed boxing at
So he had the ability with his athletic skill to say I am really good, actually. But then on top of that, you're right, he lived up to the fact
that he knew young people were looking up to him. He knew that he was idolized by a lot of people.
And, for instance, you know, even in his opposition to the Vietnam War and where he actually was going to go to jail for that, there were many in the
counter culture, the youth growing up at that time where he became an icon, because he finally stood up and they could stand up. So in a lot of ways,
throughout his life, Muhammad Ali has meant a different thing to different people in their stages of their lives, and they're all here now.
CURNOW: And so he stood up. He made these statements. But with that came a lot of sacrifice. He lost a lot from standing up.
SAVIDGE: Yes, he did. I mean, there's no question that he lost three years at that time in which he was being prosecuted for him being opposed to the
Vietnam War and not joining into the draft. And he was -- actually his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he won.
But three years out of the prime of his boxing life. The cost of that in today's dollars, well, it's almost hard to imagine what that would have
been. Certainly, back then it was millions of dollars. He knew that. He stood up for that. He was willing to make that kind of a sacrifice.
And so even those who were his critics back in the day, today, respect him for that. In fact, they would say they love him for that. It's just take a
while to come to that attitude, Robyn.
CURNOW: And as we watch this funeral procession as Muhammad Ali makes his final journey, also, let's talk about a man who became stricken down with
Parkinson's Disease very early on. And in many ways that final fight with this disease also defined him.
SAVIDGE: It's a very cruel disease, as anybody will tell you that suffers through it or has a loved one that goes through it. This was a disease that
started actually around the time of his very last fight. And if you go back and look at some of the film from that time or some of the video, you begin
to see just the early indications of the tremor.
Now, that's not the only symptom that you suffer. There is that -- you know, he went out of public -- I won't say out of the public eye. He was
always accessible. But there was a moving time, 1996, Atlanta, I saw that, where he lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies there. And he's
standing there, and part of you, your heart is like, my god, there's Muhammad Ali, and then the other part is you're taken by, of course, the
shake that he has.
But then that's quickly belayed by, look at him. He is there. And you just immediately have a flashback of greatness, and you look at a man who is
still great and still carries on in the public eye. Despite what others might have said, oh, I'm going to go into hiding, he did not. He continued
to always be out there for everyone.
CURNOW: Just stand by, Martin. As we look at these images of Muhammad Ali making his final journey, I want to play some sound of our Pamela Brown,
whose dad, John Brown, was the former governor of Kentucky. He knew Muhammad Ali, and this is what he told his daughter.
JOHN BROWN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY: I liked the fact that he was so independent and he's an entrepreneur, as you know I was. And I just admired
what he did to stand up to the U.S. government and put his career on the line and really forward the important things in our lives here as his
He was a boxer first, but he built a platform where he was world famous. If you didn't know it, he told you. And he got us to believe that he is famous
and he is the greatest and. I've had just a good fortune of being part of starting this back with Lonnie and Larry Townsend, Adam Bond (ph) and
raised $80 million dollars to preserve his legacy.
So we feel strong that it's a legacy worth saving that the world is going to share for decades yet unknown.
CURNOW: Talking there about preserving a legacy, a great legacy there. Former governor of Kentucky, John Brown there.
Martin Savidge, you're on the ground. You're waiting for this procession to come by where you are, which is where Muhammad Ali grew up, the house where
he lived as a young boy. There are a number of people speaking, attending his memorial service in the coming hours, even comedian Billy Crystal, who
is going to be saying a eulogy.
And I was just reading that Billy Crystal has said that his friendship with Ali, which went back decades and decades, he said, he was the fighter who
wouldn't fight. And that in a way plays a lot into this legacy that will endure.
SAVIDGE: Right. I mean, first and foremost, he was a phenomenal athlete, and he was an incredible boxer. So that gave him a world stage from which
to operate. But it was what he did after that. I mean, that's what I think really has people so beloving of him, and that's what it is.
He is beloved, certainly in Louisville, but certainly in other parts of not just this nation but around the world. And so they recall not just his
skill set in the ring.
We're actually looking down the street. The procession is expected to come from this direction here. It is behind schedule. It has taken a while, and,
of course, everywhere along the way, people are hoping that it pauses, it stops.
There is a strong hope that here at his home, it will, in fact, stop for a lot of reasons. One, it's his neighborhood. Two, these are his neighbors.
Not all of them, of course, were here at the time he grew up.
But there is this strong personal connection to Muhammad Ali, the boy from this particular street. And you forget that as much as he is known around
the world, he didn't just spontaneously exist. He was born, he grew up and this is that street where it all came together.
People remember him jogging by when he was training. Other people on the street can say yes, my grandfather used to give him a ride up to the gym.
It was always, always a story that someone could tell and remember, and believe me, they're sharing them all the time here.
This is one of those events where people want to be together, and this seems to be, for many, the perfect place to get together.
CURNOW: Martin, standby. Thanks so much.
We're going to continue our conversation with you in just a moment. But I have with me Don Riddell on the set.
Don, I was mentioning there about that relationship between Billy Crystal, the comedian, and Muhammad Ali. And we know that he's made friends in
unusual places, but what was that friendship about?
DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Well, they go back a long way, as you say. Muhammad Ali used to call Billy Crystal "little brother," and they
were really, really close. And Billy Crystal wrote a few years ago an article in one of the U.S. newspapers about the friendship and what they
meant to each other, and they actually had quite a few things in common.
Billy Crystal was Jewish. Muhammad Ali, of course, was a Muslim or became a Muslim. And I think that was one of the things they bonded over. They were
both in some way outsiders.
So for example, there was a story where Ali said he liked to go running at this particular golf course because it was secluded and private and he
would be kind of left to just concentrate on his fitness. And he said why don't you come for a run with me there. He said I'd love to, but they don't
allow Jews. And when Ali heard that, he said that's a disgrace. I will never run there ever again, and he never did.
And they also had a lot in common over Vietnam. Of course, we know the stand that Ali took, prepared to go to jail instead of go and fight. And
Billy Crystal's family going through the same thing. They had just lost their father, and Billy's eldest brother was about to be called up. And his
mom was so inspired by Ali's stance that it gave her the confidence to basically stand up for herself and her family and say we've just lost our
father, you're not taking our eldest son. And as Billy Chrystal put it, Ali's stance was the message that they needed to hear, and it inspired her
to stand up for herself and her family.
And they were friends. They go way back, and I think Billy Crystal's eulogy will be, I'm sure, very, very interesting and touching, because they knew
each other so well, and they had a good time together.
CURNOW: I think Bill Clinton will also be speaking. Who else is attending? Tell us about the guest list.
RIDDELL: To be honest, I don't exactly know who's all going to be attending, but I do know that we have, you know, various heads of state
attending, and I think that really speaks to the global impact that Muhammad Ali had. Of course, some of his most iconic fights were in far-
flung corners of the world, you know, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Manila in the Philippines.
So he touched so many people in all walks of life, and he really gave a voice to the little guy. When you think about the time that Muhammad Ali
came from, people like Ali didn't a voice, didn't a platform. And he gave that to so many people, and that is why he's been so revered all over the
CURNOW: One of -- one article has described him as mainstreaming black radicalism. From a racial perspective, why was he so important? And the
symbol of him saying, "I am the greatest," why did that just touch so many hearts around the world?
RIDDELL: Well, you know, again, you have to think of the time. The '60s, were such a period of conflict in the United States in particular. And we
know this was a time of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. This was a time when black Americans were beginning to stand up for themselves.
And I think it was just the manner in which he did it. He was able to demonstrate through his athletic prowess that he was a very, very special
individual, but he took it to the next level by basically saying, you might not like it, but I don't care. This is me.
"My name, not yours" was one of his most famous quotes with regard to switching from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. My religion, not yours. I'm
cocky, I'm brash, I'm arrogant, but just get used to it. I'm not going away.
CURNOW: He didn't apologize.
RIDDELL: No. And a lot of people had never heard someone of his background and his ethnicity taking that kind of bold stance, and it was just so
inspirational, and not just for black Americans but for the downtrodden and disenfranchised everywhere. I mean, that was just -- he was such a symbol
of hope. So inspirational.
CURNOW: And in hours after he died, we were sitting here and talking about some of his most inspirational sayings, and this was a man who could really
turn a word and, you know, pull a rhyme out of nowhere.
CURNOW: And he really, really had an ability with words that still lives on to this day.
RIDDELL: Well, I think I probably told you the story the other day. The first time I saw the great documentary film "When We Were Kings" about "The
Rumble In The Jungle" fight against George Foreman, you know, I was too young to remember Ali fighting so I watched this documentary, and I saw
these great media performances. He was such a great orator.
And it was so perfect. I just assumed it was an actor. I couldn't believe an athlete would be that good in terms of, you know, regaling the media and
coming out with these amazing rhymes and poems and with such confidence. And he just never missed a beat.
I don't think there had been an athlete like him to that point and frankly, not since. I mean, I think he was an original and absolutely unique.
He didn't do particularly well at school by his own admission, but you would never guess it when you hear the way he spoke. And you're right. He
did seem to pull these kind of rhymes out of nowhere.
But some of his quotes have really stood the test of time, and we've been hearing a lot of them again recently. And they're remarkable. I mean,
they're very, very entertaining, but also very, very poignant.
CURNOW: They sort of really also make sense in our Twitter world. I mean, he really knew the power of the sound bite, and I think in a way, what
we're seeing here today, these extraordinary images of a great man making his way to his final resting place, is a man who managed to be an everyman.
He wasn't just an athlete. He wasn't just an orator. He wasn't just a hero to many. You know, he also knew how to sell himself, and he was in a way
ahead of his time on that.
RIDDELL: Yes, I would agree with that. Boxers have promoters, but I think in his case, he was able to promote himself and his own fights. He knew
what to say. He knew how to command attention. And once he was on the scene, whether you liked him or not, whether you believed in what he was
saying or not, whether you were for him or afraid of him, he certainly captured the public attention.
Yes, it's just really, really remarkable. And it's been wonderful reliving kind of some of his finest moments in the last few days.
I think one of the greatest tragedies about Muhammad Ali is what he could have become. I mean, he was a phenomenon. He was inspirational and remained
so. But when you think about the last 32 years and how he was really crippled by the Parkinson's Disease, we didn't see him in public.
CURNOW: Great voice rendered voiceless.
RIDDELL: Yes, I mean, so after the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight, some of the journalists who were there covering the fight -- and many people didn't
think he was going to win, and he won in spectacular fashion. And they saw the way he interacted with locals in Kinshasa the next day and playing with
the kids on the street and seeing how he responded to them, but how they responded to him.
And in this documentary, a lot of journalists were saying that was the moment where it hit them, this is a political figure we're looking at.
Think of what he could have become. You know, think of what the last 32 years could have been if he hadn't been crippled by this disease and the
continued impact and mark he could have made.
I still think he achieved an awful lot. There's no doubt about it. And he believed this was his destiny, by the way. I mean, he really, really
believed that this is why he was put on this earth.
There's another wonderful quote that's just been on social media a lot over the last few days where he was doing a Q&A in England, and he was asked by
a young boy, what are you going to do when you retire. And he gave this 10- minute answer, breaking down, you know, how many waking minutes you have in your life and how you mustn't let them pass you by and how you need to make
the most of every minute.
And he basically said, I am preparing for the next stage. I am going to spend my retirement preparing for the afterlife. And he was so passionate
and, you know, he had such conviction about that, that that was what he was going to do with the rest of his life. And he used to say, there were
journalists who knew him, who at the end of every day he would look in the mirror and say, based on what I have done today, was it enough to get me
into heaven? And that is the motto really by which he lived his life.
CURNOW: You were mentioning the documentary "When We Were Kings" that impacted on you. Well, we have the filmmaker, Leon Gast, who actually
directed "When We Were Kings," the documentary on "The Rumble in the Jungle," he's in Louisville, I think, sir. What are your thoughts this
LEON GAST, FILM MAKER (via telephone): My thoughts this hour are that I have to present myself looking at least halfway decent, so I'm wearing a
black suit, a white shirt, and a black paisley tie. I'm getting myself ready.
I was out with a lot of the writers and fighters last night hanging in the downtown Marriot. Everybody spoke. It was a wonderful evening. Don King was
there, Mauricio Sulaiman, who runs the WBC, Mike Marley, lots of writers from the U.K., from all over the country. Each person had a couple minutes
or actually as many as they would like and they told firsthand experiences with Ali, and it was a beautiful evening and they had a beautiful dinner.
And my flight was delayed four hours coming in from LaGuardia Airport, four hours, and --
CURNOW: So why -- you're the director of this great documentary. Why was --
GAST: "When We Were Kings."
CURNOW: -- "Rumble in the Jungle" such an iconic fight? What was it about that fight that was so iconic?
GAST: So about -- what about it? I'm sorry. I didn't understand your last sentence.
CURNOW: Why was " Rumble in the Jungle " such an iconic fight? What did it tell us about Muhammad Ali and his life?
GAST: Well, the thing was I had access to Muhammad Ali. And I know that in order for me to get close to the real story is access. So when I Ali, at
first I was a little frightened. I went up with the camera guy and a sound guy and an assistant, and I said, are you on your way to Africa.
We're on the same flight. You're flying up to Logan. I'm in that plane. Then we're going to Spain. Then we're going to Kinshasa. His reaction was -
- and it kind of frightened me -- he said, just don't get in my face.
CURNOW: Well, that's Muhammad Ali, just don't get in my face.
Leon Gast, thank you so much for joining us.
I'm going to have to take our audience for one last comment from the scene there on the ground, at Louisville, Kentucky where our Martin Savidge is.
Hi there, Martin. The procession making its way through town.
SAVIDGE: Yes, I can't see it, Robyn, but I can tell you by the feeling going through the crowd, the anticipation's growing. Police seem to be
pushing people back to the curb. That would be another indication that, of course, it's going to come this way.
They've been waiting for hours. It's incredibly hot. No one is complaining. There hasn't been any sort of angry word at all. People have patiently been
You might be able to see the police officers just off in this direction here. So it seems that, you know, this procession, what they've waited for
for so long is coming here. And for many, this is their moment, this is their chance, their probably only chance today, because many won't have
tickets to say good-bye. And it could be personal, or it could be shared in a group, but I've got a feeling it's going to be shared in the group with
People have wanted to be with other people to share stories or to simply hear stories, to bring their children to listen to a legacy that has passed
along from a grandparent telling a child what I remember back in the day. It's all happening right here. And one last time, Muhammad Ali will drive
down the street in which he grew up.
CURNOW: And we know that this procession is also very symbolic. Not only is it going past key places that mean something in Muhammad Ali's life, but
we've also seen images of rose petals. Tell us the symbolism of that.
SAVIDGE: It's Cave Hill cemetery where that is being done. It's, of course, a tribute. It's a very special kind of tribute. That is the last leg, you
could say, of this drive through Louisville. He will end up at the cemetery. There's going to be a private ceremony at the grave site.
But an anonymous donor apparently decided that the world champ needs to go out in grand style, and to do that, on a bed of rose petals. So that road
has been completely covered. Quite a remarkable scene from what I hear of people who have seen it and a fitting tribute for a man who means so much.
CURNOW: A man who means so much. Just a final response, as you feel the atmosphere there, what was it that people felt defined Muhammad Ali and not
only in Louisville but also around the world? What was it that touched them?
SAVIDGE: I think beyond being a great athlete, it was his ability to bring people together. He was all about inclusion. No one was to be denied. No
one's to be denied access to his service. No one's to be denied access to as he drives through the streets.
He wanted the world to come together. And even in death, he has managed to do that as people from all around the world, all walks of life, all stages
of life and backgrounds, they're all here, and they're all chanting his name.
CURNOW: Indeed. Thanks so much, Martin Savidge there in Louisville, Kentucky, as Muhammad Ali makes his final journey. He will be buried within
the next few hours. There will then be a memorial service.
People from around the world have traveled to Kentucky to come and pay their respects. A number of celebrities and a number of former presidents
and leaders also.
And as Martin Savidge said, a man who was known for his inclusiveness. His final resting, his final procession, very much indicative of that.
You're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. "Living Golf" is next.