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Syria's Tormented Children; The Highs and Lows of the Rio Olympics; The Future of Europe's Only Ancient Forest

Aired August 22, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET



[14:00:09] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, born amid the barrel bombs and used as weapons of war.

Will Syria's tormented children ever know a life of peace? I speak to Britain's ambassador to the U.N. Matthew Rycroft.

Also ahead, the curtain comes down on the 2016 Olympics. But how will history remember Rio? I look back at the highs and the lows with Olympics

historian and author David Goldblatt.

Plus, the fight to save an ancient forest facing a very modern threat.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program.

I'm Clarissa Ward in for Christiane Amanpour.

Children, innocent victims of war and terrorism, but also sometimes perpetrators, groomed to carry out heinous attacks.

A wedding celebration in Gaziantep, Turkey turned into a bloodbath on Saturday after a suicide blast. 22 of the 54 victims children. The bomber

himself as young as 12 according to the Turkish president on Sunday.

Gaziantep is about 95 kilometres north of the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo, where this video of another child, five-year-old Omron, is still

sending shock waves around the world.

Over the weekend, his older brother died from his injuries after the bomb attack that hit their home. But, amazingly, new life is being born into

this dark world.

Our Nima Elbagir has this report, which contains disturbing video.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two lives. One heartbeat sustaining both. Mesa is nine months pregnant. She was already on her way

to the hospital when the airstrike hit. Mesa's arm and leg are broken. Her belly sprayed with shrapnel. But what about her baby?

Mesa's wail pierces the silence. The doctors keep on going. The baby out into the bright lights. Silent and still.

They fight on. The little chest pummelled up and down, harder and harder. His airways cleared, anything and everything. Then a flutter, blood in the

umbilical cord. Color floods his little body.

Cries of "God is great" break the tension. A moment of triumph over this spectre of greedy death stalking the city streets. A moment that here in

Aleppo must be waged again and again.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


WARD: Both the baby and the mother survived that near death experience, but many more are not so lucky.

The U.N. Security Council has been discussing Syria in closed consultations this morning. And joining me now from the United Nations in New York is

the UK's ambassador to the U.N. Matthew Rycroft.


WARD: Ambassador Rycroft, thank you so much for being on the show with us.

You just saw that vivid account of life in Aleppo. What would you tell that baby about the country that he is now being born into?

MATTHEW RYCROFT, UK'S U.N. AMBASSADOR: First of all, thank you for having me on the show, Clarissa. It's lovely to hear finally a good news story

coming out of Aleppo. So what I would say to that baby is good luck, you have made it. You are one of the very rare exceptions. Here's a good news

story coming out of Aleppo. But, sadly, there are so many other bad news stories across the hall of Syria.

13.5 million individuals need some form of humanitarian assistance in Syria and that baby is going to be growing up in a divided country. For the good

of that baby, what we need is for all of the whole international community to come together, to provide aid, to stop the bombing and to get the

political talks back on track so there can be a transition away from Assad under that baby and all the other people of Syria can have the sort of

government that they deserve.

[14:05:15] WARD: Is that realistic? I mean, we've heard that talk before, but is it realistic? Is there any reason to believe now that this might be

a possibility, that we might start to see aid getting in.

RYCROFT: We've got to see aid getting in. One thing that we can start with is each week having a 48-hour pause in the fighting to allow the aid

to go through. That was a proposal that U.N. made a couple of months ago.

The Russians were against it, but they are now in favor of it. So I think that everyone can agree to that. As I said in the Security Council just

now, if we can agree on that, we can all come together and to begin to get the aid in to the people of Aleppo. They need that so much.

And then secondly, there must be a halt to the bombing, a halt to the fighting. The Syrian regime and their Russian backers have got to stop the

fighting. And if they do that, then the political talks can get going again.

WARD: So if the Russians in principle, I mean, as recently as last week, they were saying that they are on board with the principal of this 48


What's the hold up? What needs to happen now to actually make this take place on the ground?

RYCROFT: Well, the U.N. relief chief told us today that the U.N. are ready to go ahead. So as soon as there is a pause agreed in Syria, then the aid

will start flowing again. Not a single convoy of aid has got into Aleppo in the whole month of August. And there are thousands upon thousands of

people there who desperately need that.

So the U.N. are ready to go provided the Russians can agree to allow these forces, then they will go ahead. Unfortunately, there is a difference

between actions and words. And we've had the words before. And what we now need is the action, so that means genuine pause to the fighting. And

let's hope that it's for more than 48-hour hours. Let's hope that we begin with 48-hour pauses and that they increase in regularity and in length

until there is a proper genuine cease fire to allow all aid to get into all the people who need it.

WARD: And you mentioned in your second point, the aerial bombardment which, of course, you know, has been relentless now for many, many months.

Has the time come to say that the status quo is simply unacceptable with regards to that aerial bombardment in Syria?

RYCROFT: Yes, it has. The aerial bombardment is simply, completely and utterly unacceptable. It's illegal. It's unjustifiable.

What makes it worse is it appears to be deliberately targeting civilian areas. And it's deliberately indiscriminate, which means people are dying.

And that is the point of the bombing. I mean, that's just such an awful thing to say. But that appears to be the tactic of the Syrian regime and

their backers. And that must stop. And there is a huge amount of international opinion forcing them to stop. So I really hope that this

time they are listening and I hope that they will stop this awful tactic of war.

WARD: So why do you think, then, the international community has been so hamstrung in doing something to ameliorate the situation?

I mean, what is the hold up? Is it the fact that the Russians have an important weight on the Security Council? Is that the main block?

RYCROFT: Yes, I think the main block is that the Security Council has been divided, and it has been divided for five years now. And there is a, if

you like, a majority opinion, but there is a very strong minority led by Russia who have a permanent sits on the Security Council, which means that

they can veto anything that they don't like, and that veto has been used to prevent genuine, meaningful, security action.

And sadly that veto has prolonged the war. It has kept Assad in power and it has divided the international community, which has meant that we have

been much less successful collectively than we need to be. I very much hope that that is going to change, hope that we can start with these 48-

hour pauses, go into some other humanitarian areas, get into an end, a genuine end to the fighting and then after that get a resumption of these

political talks going.

In the end, there must be a political settlement to this. That's the only way that will resolve this long-running five-year crisis.

WARD: I wanted to get your read on a couple of other things. The Russians today announcing that they're finished with these bombing routes that were

being flown out of Iran.

What is your read on that whole thing? Why were the Russians flying out of Iran? Did it have strategic significance? Was it more a show of force?

What's your take on it?

RYCROFT: Well, my take is that there is a very clear Russian-Iranian- Syrian access, and the Russians have clearly been building up their relationship both with the Assad regime in Syria, but also with the Iranian

authorities. And they were clearly using their aircraft sorties out of Iran to demonstrate that strategic show of strength.

I think they have rightly decided that that is a difficult policy to continue, particularly at a time when there are such sectarian divisions

and tensions within the wider Middle East.

[14:10:00] And so to be so obviously siding with the Shia side of the Middle East, that is bound to cause Russia problems with its Sunni


WARD: And then the other seeming surprise was to hear President Erdogan of Turkey apparently potentially back-pedalling on a lot of what he said about

the Syrian conflict before suggesting that there could even be a scenario in which President Assad could have some kind of an interim role.

Obviously, we've also seen President Erdogan spending more than and reconciling with Russia recently.

What is your understanding of how President Erdogan sees this playing out? Or how he's trying to position himself?

RYCROFT: Well, Turkey has a crucial role in the political approach to ending the Syria war, partly as a neighbor, partly as a very significant

front line in the war on terrorism. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey in their fight against Daesh and other forms of terrorism.

It sums up a political transition in Syria. There are a lot of different countries involved. All of the relevant ones, all the big ones are on the

International Syria Support Group, which is where the U.K. and the other permanent members come together with regional powers. And what we need is

a single view of the international community on an overall framework for this transition.

And, of course, there will be slight differences of view between the different regional and international players. But what matters is that the

Syrians themselves come together under U.N. auspices to agree that transition. That is what I mean when I say we need to get the political

talks back on track.

But everything is interconnected, and we cannot -- I cannot imagine the talks going ahead for as long as there is a complete block on humanitarian

access going into places like Aleppo for as long as there is continued fighting and continued bombing of cities in Syria.

WARD: Well, let's hope to see that 48-hour pause, soon.

Thank you so much, Ambassador Rycroft, for being on the program with us. Thank you.

RYCROFT: Thank you.


WARD: Well, one extremist had his day in court today in The Hague. Ahmad al-Mahdi pled guilty to the destruction of Muslim shrines and a mosque in

Mali's ancient City of Timbuktu. Al-Mahdi was part of a Jihadist group that claimed the structures were idolatrous. While apologizing to the

International Criminal Court, he implored other Muslims not to follow in his steps.

When we come back, the Olympics wind up in spectacular fashion. We ask, will history judge Rio by its successes or its scandals?


WARD: Welcome back to the program.

Well, it was a dance party like no other as Rio said goodbye to the Olympic Games on Sunday, with the Maracana Stadium turning into a street carnival

after 16 days of action.

It was the games of magic and mayhem, from punch-ups at petrol stations and stripteases protest to Triple Crown champions and smashed world records.

But what kind of long-term impact will the games have?

Well, joining me now to discuss this is sportswriter David Goldblatt whose new book, "The Games of Global History of the Olympics" traces every aspect

of the world's biggest sporting event.


WARD: David Goldblatt, thank you so much for being with us.

I guess to begin with, if you had to say in a nutshell, what distinguished these Rio Olympics from previous games?

[14:15:16] DAVID GOLDBLATT, SPORTS WRITER: Oh, the sheer scale and complexity of the problems that it tried to deal with. The fact that, you

know, Brazil is a democracy and therefore all of its faults were aired incredibly widely.

And I think that the Rio Olympics are going to be remembered for the moment when people seriously began to question whether the claims of the Olympic

movement and its hosts to leave legacies and be economically beneficial really cannot caught the eyes anymore.

WARD: And what do you mean by that, exactly? In what sense?

GOLDBLATT: Well, let's look at, you know -- let's take the case of Rio somewhere in the region of $10 billion has been spent? And what does it

actually been spent on? An Olympic village that will be turned into a gated community for high-end consumers.

You know, a golf course that is a real estate scam for selling condominiums. A new metro that takes rich people from Ipanema to rich

people in Barra, while the vast majority of the city who desperately need new public transport in the Zona Norte are getting absolutely nothing.

I failed to see what the long-term infrastructural legacy is for the people of Rio as a whole. The contractors, of course, have done fabulously well.

WARD: So when you -- do you look at this as a general problem with the Olympics or as something specific to Rio? Is there an issue with the

legacy that Games leave behind in developing countries?

GOLDBLATT: Absolutely. This is a problem with the Games as a whole. Brazil has given its own particular twist. But, you know, the same kind of

problems that we see at Rio, you know, we saw them in Athens. We see them at Beijing. We saw them -- Sochi was more corrupt. Atlanta scrubbed the

city center of the poor more thoroughly. Athens left more white elephants. The problem is not just Brazil, it is the entire model of hosting the

Olympic Games.

WARD: On a lighter note, what did you take away as a high note of the Games?

GOLDBLATT: Rafaela Silva, the woman from the judoka, from the favela scoring Brazil's gold medal was a pretty extraordinary moment.

WARD: And a low note?

GOLDBLATT: Oh, the booing by the Brazilian crowd of the poor French pole vaulter, not merely in the competition, but when he got up to take his

silver medal.

WARD: So what do you think going forward, given some of the issues that you've highlighted for us, what do you think needs to change in the Olympic

system? Can there be a reform?

GOLDBLATT: The composition of the International Olympic Committee needs to change. You know, the people who are actually making the decision clearly

have absolutely no conception about how to judge the probacy or quality of Olympic bids.

I mean, anyone who would read Rio's bid document and believe that they were going to clear up 85 percent of the city's sewage given their track record

beforehand really cannot be taken seriously as a judge of these things.

We need to make it cheaper. There need to be less sports. There needs to be, you know, a commitment to really raising the level of sporting

participation and host cities demonstrating that they can do that rather than choosing iconic architecture.

Perhaps above all, we need to think about hosting the Olympics in more than just one city so that we can spread the pain and the joy.

WARD: But there are these seminal moments during every Olympic Games. I mean, what was your take away when you look at this Ethiopian runner, for

example, sort of holding his hands up in this gesture of defiance as he crossed the finish line? There is a sense that politics and sports, it all

kind of overlaps in the Olympics.

GOLDBLATT: Of course. I mean, the politics and sports overlap which is why we need to think about this politically in terms of who is actually

benefiting from these things and what the trade-off between extraordinary sporting and athletic moments.

And I absolutely recognize the value and the place for those, but one has to ask, you know, what do 72,000 people in Rio, who were displaced to make

this Games happen think about it? What do the cleaners who are not being paid while doing 15-hour shifts think about it? What do the people who

volunteered and didn't get meals think about it?

There is a cost to staging these things, and we need to respect the people who host it. The people who are really paying the price and make sure they

get a good deal as well.

WARD: Last question, just quickly. You spent an entire career covering the Olympics.

What is so special about the Olympics?

GOLDBLATT: Nothing. You know, we live in a fragmented, but globalize world. We have a very rare opportunity to actually look at ourselves as

global humanity in all its diversity and complexity. We need those moments.

And most extraordinarily, you know, the Olympics does it through a normal linguistic form through sport. Very little else can capture so much of the

planet and bring it together. Quite what we show and what we learn about ourselves in the process is another matter.

[14:20:16] WARD: And I would be remiss if I didn't ask you on that note, the Paralympics poised to be something of a disaster this year. Only 12

percent of tickets sold.

What's going on there? What's happened?

GOLDBLATT: Well, I think you've got a situation where -- you know, the reason why London 2012 was so fantastically successful in the Paralympics

is, you know, you would have 20, 25 years of disability politics and disability Paralympics sport in this country pressing the case, changing

attitudes. So that when the Games were held here, you had a very receptive public, a fantastically receptive media, brilliant organizers.

And Brazil's disability politics and attitude to disability are in a very different place from where we were in London in 2012.

WARD: Indeed. David Goldblatt, thank you so much for being on the program with us.

GOLDBLATT: Thank you for having me.


WARD: Well, coming up, we imagine a forest that offers a glimpse into the past of Europe. Poland's primeval woodland is a vision of what the world

once was. But is its future under threat? Find out after this.


WARD: And finally tonight, imagine a fairy tale world of ancient woods and almost mythic beasts. In Poland, Europe's last primeval forest has

flourished for more than ten thousands years. It is home to one of Europe's largest and rarest species, the bison. Now it's facing perhaps

the biggest threat in its entire existence.

Our Phil Black has the story.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sunlight seeps through the forest canopy, softly enveloping some of Europe's oldest trees. It feels

like time here is standing still.

Man has interfered little with this ancient ecosystem. Bialowieza, primeval forest, a UNESCO world heritage site, is located in Poland's Far

East and stretches into neighboring Belarus. It is the best preserved deciduous forest in Europe, some say in the world.


forest is unique from this point of view that it is covered by forest (INAUDIBLE).

BLACK: The forest is also home to Europe's biggest mammal, the endangered European Bison. There are almost 600 in this forest. They are not alone.

This place is an arc of natural wonder.

[14:25:00] BLACK: But there are fears it could all be threatened by one of the forest's tiniest creatures, the bark beetle.

Since 2012, the beetles have attacked almost one-fifth of the spruce trees, the worst infestation in decades. The Polish government initially

responded with a highly controversial policy. It tripled logging quarters in parts of the forest that aren't already strictly protected.

The thinking goes infested trees should be cut down to prevent others being attacked. But that only inspired fury from environmentalists and concern

among scientists who believe humans should not intervene.

JAROSZEWICZ: Forest existed for thousand years, and if the forest were dominated by spruce, spruce bark beetle was always a part of it. Such

cycles of bark beetle outbreaks in the Auvira (ph) Forests took place during the 20th century almost each decade. And that's a normal, natural

process, natural cycle. So natural forest will deal with the problem.

BLACK: That's an argument some foresters refuse to accept.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a conflict in ideologies. A passive ideology and one that is aimed at actively protecting the forest.

If we don't set a clear goal, the conflict will drag on.

BLACK: Locals are also split over the best approach. Some want a complete ban on commercial logging.

JOANNA LAPINSKA, RESIDENT: This is a place that needs protection. It's kind of like now that each few years, we have a conflict, we have a

problem. It needs protection, and as we leave here, we think that it's our responsibility to give our voice.

BLACK: The debate has inspired the government to pause and reassess its policy. Logging has been suspended temporarily. So for now, the quiet of

the forest is undisturbed as its left alone to endure and hopefully overcome the assault of the bark beetles.


WARD: That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter @ClarissWard.

Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.