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Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony For Once-Postponed Games Set For Friday; South Korea Reports Record Daily Increase In Cases; Brother Of Syrian Man Allegedly Tortured And Killed By Russian Wagner Mercenaries Speaks To CNN; Kerry: Urgent Engagement Needed On Climate Crisis; Skateboarding To Be Added To 2021 Olympic Games. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone I'm John Vause.

Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, a day before the official start of the Tokyo Olympics and the director of the opening ceremony has been sacked. Days earlier, the musical director resigned over decades old allegations of bullying.

The Syrian family and human rights groups are demanding justice following a brutal killing that's being blamed on Russian mercenaries.

And could the devastation of just this past week alone from scorching heat waves, uncontrollable wildfires and extreme flooding be the wakeup call on climate change? The time to act is now.

On the eve of what was already one of the most peculiar Summer Olympics of the modern era, the director of the opening ceremony, Kentaro Kobayashi has been fired. Kobayashi a standup comedian apparently had made jokes about the Holocaust as part of his routine.

Earlier this week, the Olympic music director was forced to resign after admitting he had bullied disabled children while he was at school.

And in March, the executive creative director was also forced out under scandalous conditions as well.

And all the time, COVID continues to advance and Tokyo is under a state of emergency.

Spectators have been shut out of most venues. That means the athletes are pursuing their Olympic dreams inside empty stadiums. Although the events will be televised, as well as live streamed and crowd noise is being piped into the venues.

COVID is stalking the Olympic Village too, puncturing the idea that it's a secure bubble. More than a dozen athletes from around the world have already tested positive and withdrawn.

And barring a last-minute cancellation of the games. The opening ceremony gets underway. In just one more day, about 950 dignitaries are expected to attend and the plans of ceremony seem to be up in the air right now. And the president of the IOC admits it's been a difficult journey.


THOMAS BACH, IOC PRESIDENT: And I think it will be a moment of joy and relief. A moment of joy in particular for the athletes, because I know -- I know how much they are longing for this moment.

And a feeling of relief because no need to tell you the road to where this opening ceremony was not the easiest one.


VAUSE: We get the latest now from CNN's Will Ripley in Tokyo.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Olympic Games are underway. The host city on edge under a COVID-19 state of emergency. New infections dashing the dreams of Olympic hopefuls including Team USA beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb, the fourth U.S. athlete to test positive for the virus.

Inside the Olympic bubble, cases on the rise. A Chilean Taekwondo athlete and Dutch skateboarder also out after testing positive. One British athlete posting her routine, showing daily COVID testing for athletes, temperature checks, mask wearing and other COVID protocols in place meant to keep them safe.

USA Gymnastics deciding to forego the Olympic Village altogether, housing the team at a hotel instead. Their coach tweeting, it was also a decision that we all made together, we know it isn't ideal during a pandemic. We feel like we can control the athletes in our safety better in a hotel setting.

Infection spiking outside the bubble as well. roughly two thirds of the Japanese population are already opposed to the games even moving forward. More than 1,800 new cases on Wednesday, the highest number in more than six months.

Tokyo's governor telling Japanese to avoid going out during the games, to stay home and watch them on T.V.

After pouring billions into supporting Tokyo 2020, some key Olympic sponsors like Toyota backing away from advertisements, canceling special events surrounding the games.

KUNITOSHE ABE, KOKESHI MAKER (through translator): They call it a recovery Olympics. But in the midst of this situation, I don't really feel it's any sort of recovery Olympics. I feel the Olympics itself isn't really in the mood for the Olympics.

RIPLEY: In the Mood or not, the first competition softball and soccer kicking off Wednesday with Women's World Cup reigning champions Team USA suffering a stinging defeat in their match against Sweden. Falling three to nothing. Snapping a 44-game winning streak and making their quest for gold a much tougher climb.


RIPLEY: A surreal scene at the Olympic venues. No fans to cheer, virtually empty, crowd noise piped in, athletes adjusting to the new normal as best they can.

JORDAN WINDLE, TEAM USA ATHLETE, MEN'S DIVING: It was difficult because I want it to be a normal Olympics. I want to have the atmosphere, you know, the roar of the crowd when someone hits a big dive. But also, it gives off, you know, less pressure to a lot of the athletes.

RIPLEY: For now, the in-person cheers for the Olympic future, with Brisbane, Australia taking the mantle as host of the 2032 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, with the Tokyo games opening ceremony just hours away, the size and scope, still unknown.

Japan's aerobatic fighter jets, the Blue Impulse taking a practice run, drawing the Olympic rings in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've had faith in the games to be held from the very beginning. I think people will enjoy regardless of how it's going to be.

RIPLEY: The aspiration of the Olympic spirit, impossible to quell. Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.


VAUSE: Dr. Kenji Shibuya is the director of the COVID vaccination center in the city of Soma, Japan. He has also served as a senior adviser to the head of the World Health Organization, and he is with us now from Fukushima.

Dr. Shibuya thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: Well, games organizers have created a sort of, you know, security bubble, health bubble around the Olympic Village, if you like. The theory being that what happens outside the bubble stays outside the bubble.

In recent days so, more than 70 people, including about seven athletes inside the bubble have tested positive for the coronavirus.

So, is that number high enough to indicate there is a major problem with the pandemic protocols which are currently in place?

SHIBUYA: I think the number will be -- will be increased in due course. And yes, the organizing committee told us repeatedly that bubble system will ensure the safe and secure Olympics. But in reality, lots of supporting staff, delegates are freely going out and going back. So, effectively, I think there seems to be quite a few holes in the bubble system.

VAUSE: Is it an easy fix do you think or have they got some real issues here?

SHIBUYA: I think it's a little challenging to fix this at this stage.

VAUSE: Yes, it seems many of the safety recommendations which are in place for the Village were a lot more relevant maybe 18 months ago at the beginning of the pandemic. Recommending, you know, reduced capacity, a dining room tables from six to four, people are using plexiglass and splash guards throughout the Village.

But now we know that aerial transmission is one of the main ways the virus spreads. And that hasn't been considered for getting the ventilation system, for example. And it seems like the IOC are they fighting the last war as opposed to the one which is in front of them right now?

SHIBUYA: Absolutely, because to me, the fundamental opponent has been a complete lack of open, transparent and a scientific discussion on the condition under which the Olympic could be held in a safe and secure manner. Including ventilation, mass testing, requirement for vaccination.

So, these kind of essential sign spaced measures are not fully implemented.

VAUSE: Yes, we're also looking at the next Olympics, the Winter Olympics. It's 28 weeks now until Beijing. And the IOC clearly does not want to repeat of the empty stadiums that we're seeing in Tokyo. Listen to this.


JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH JR., HEAD OF IOC COORDINATION COMMISSION: We want to have within the limits that the Chinese and international health authorities might mark, we need and we want to have spectators. We would like to have international community there. We would like to have the opportunity for everybody to enjoy the hospitality and enjoy the great Chinese offers.


VAUSE: Like I said, we're about 28 weeks away. What are the chances the Winter Games will be spared those tough restrictions which are already in place right now for the Tokyo Olympics?

SHIBUYA: Yes, I think we should learn from the lessons but on top of that, the global community should try to suppress the, you know, pandemic as soon as possible in a collaborative manner.

VAUSE: Right. So, basically, this pandemic is going to be with us for a while and it's not going to go away in 28 weeks. So essentially, Beijing will face similar if not greater challenges?

SHIBUYA: Yes, but I think with vaccination effort, and a potential, you know, testing and scientific measures, I think it will be possible to hold the Olympics with spectators because China has a track record to suppress the transmission. And I think there are some lessons out on the Tokyo Olympics, how best to, you know, welcome to the guest, and make sure that the Olympics will be held in a safe and secure manner.


VAUSE: Well, the director general of the WHO is in Tokyo on Wednesday. He publicly declared overwhelming support for the games, here he is.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The world needs now more than ever, a celebration of hope. The celebrations may be more muted this year. But the message of hope is all the more important.


VAUSE: Even the doctors in Japan call for the cancellation of the games, public health officials of the world over have expressed serious concerns. And in the past, the WHO has been accused of a conflict of interest when it comes to the IOC and the Olympic Games. Would have been better if maybe that ringing endorsement was perhaps a little more muted?

SHIBUYA: Well, I think it depends because the WHO has a responsibility to suppress the transmission globally. And so, I think it is important for the WHO to be optimistic and also convey the message that we need a global collaboration.

VAUSE: Fair enough. OK. Well, Dr. Kenji Shibuya will leave it right there. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

SHIBUYA: My pleasure. Thank you.

VAUSE: South Korea has set another high for daily COVID infections breaking the record set yesterday earlier. The surging numbers are being driven by the Delta variant and a low vaccination rate. Just 13 percent have been fully vaccinated. On Wednesday, officials recorded more than 1,800 new COVID cases.

Manisha Tank is live in Singapore with the situation not just in South Korea, but also around Asia. So, what is the latest there? What's going on?

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yes, well, what's going on? Well, of course, Asia, huge region, Southeast Asia within it. It's a vast space, John.

And in all of the countries in this region, we're seeing a real patchwork quilt of response when it comes to vaccination and it's for different reasons. If you take Indonesia, for example, where we've seen spikes in the last week in the number of daily cases, there was a resistance by the population to actually get vaccinated.

A lot of that was attributed to misinformation that was being spread via social media in a country which is very adept at using social media, mobile phones have grateful proliferation in Indonesia, for example. It was very difficult for the government to get people on board.

But in The Straits Times here in Singapore was reporting and just laying pictures as well in its editorials and across its digital services of people scrambling to get vaccinated as those case numbers go up.

I want to tell you about one of the standout cases which is here in Malaysia. Now, we've had some news out of Malaysia (AUDIO GAP) the biggest single day rise in deaths. It's a very sobering figure, 199. This is the highest daily toll since the pandemic began.

But there's something else happening in Malaysia at the same time, which is actually their vaccination rate has hugely accelerated. 400,000 vaccinations being rolled out per day and the government saying that they want to ramp that up to 500,000. They want to see that number come through very soon, this number of jabs daily.

And in fact, they're pointing in the last couple of days, according to The Straits Times again here in Singapore, that we should start seeing Malaysia potentially, and this is certainly what they've put on the calendar, a potential for people who are vaccinated to be able to move around more freely.

Malaysia has gone in and out of movement control orders since the pandemic began. This is the local name for lockdowns in Malaysia.

Here in Singapore, it's a new day, it's another new set of restrictions, because a cluster that has been linked to KTV bars, and also Jurong Fishery Port, these are all connected clusters. But that has now really resulted in a spike in cases, John.

And that means that from today, more restrictions for residents of Singapore. And of course, you know, this is what we have to accept that living with COVID means we will have to move in and out of this type of scenario, John.

VAUSE: Yes, it's the new normalcy, I guess, one which we don't particularly like at this point. But Manisha, thank you. Manisha Tank there live in Singapore.

Africa has been a COVID vaccine desert for the most part, but that may be about to change. Pfizer and BioNTech say next year, they'll begin production of their vaccines in South Africa. More than 100 million doses per year distributed exclusively across the continent.

Here's the CEO of the South African firm working with the drug companies to make that happen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORENA MAKHOANA, CEO, BIOVAC: Our transaction is the first in Africa. And it's actually the first in southern hemisphere and I think that's significant.

I think it's historic for an African manufacturer for -- and for us as a -- as a continent.


VAUSE: There'll be constant calls from many countries including South Africa to weigh the intellectual property rights on these vaccines. Negotiations for that are ongoing at the World Trade Organization.

France's controversial COVID health pass is being met with growing protests nationwide. Many see it as a massive government overreach, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test now required for large public gatherings and popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.


VAUSE: Next month, the pass must be shown at bars, restaurants, shopping malls.

Protesters carried signs reading hands off my natural immunity but experts say that will not protect them from the Delta variant, with most new infections among the unvaccinated.

France just reported its highest number of deadly cases since May about 21,000 just on Wednesday.

And the British Prime Minister is being accused of a super spreader confusion when it comes to certain COVID rules.

On Wednesday, the leader of the Labour Party called out Boris Johnson's recent reversals over self-isolation rules and vaccine passports. The prime minister is currently self-isolating after coming into close contact with the British health secretary who tested positive for the virus over the weekend.


KERI STARMER, OPPOSITION LABOUR PARTY LEADER: I have to say, even after 15 months of these exchanges, I can't believe that the Prime Minister doesn't see the irony of him spending Freedom Day locked in isolation and announcing plans for a vaccine I.D. card.

I remember when he used to say he'd eat an I.D. card if you ever had to produce one, but now he's introducing them.

So, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to creating confusion, the Prime Minister is a super spreader.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: And the Prime Minister accused the opposition leader of trying to score cheap political points and defended the isolation rules.

On Monday, Mr. Johnson suggested critical workers should be exempt but the very next day, Downing Street reiterated that everyone should need -- should indeed isolate if they are pinged by Britain's track and trace app that identifies possible COVID-19 contacts.

Well, six months into Joe Biden's presidency and he's making it clear all the progress has been made the fight against the coronavirus is far from over.

Speaking at a CNN Town Hall on Wednesday, the President pleaded with Americans to get vaccinated. It comes as inoculations are stalling, cases are rising, the Delta variant sweeping across the nation.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's really simple, we have a pandemic for those who haven't gotten a vaccination. It's that basic, that simple.

10,000 people have recently died, 9,950 of them, thereabouts, are people who hadn't been vaccinated. This is simple basic proposition.

If you're vaccinated, you're not going to be hospitalized, you're not going to be in ICU unit, and you're not going to die.

So, it's gigantically important that you act like -- we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans. To get -- there's legitimate questions people can ask that they worry about getting vaccinated. But the question should be asked, answered and people should get vaccinated. But this is not a pandemic.

We've made sure that since I got in office, we've inoculated over 160 million people, 85 percent of people over the age of 50.

Anyway, it's frustrating.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: What do you say to people who are worried about a new round of restrictions and mask mandates and so forth?

BIDEN: Well, I'm saying, look, it's a little bit like when I got elected, you know? This pandemic was out of control. You know, we've lost more people in the United States, over 630,000 some people, than in every major war we've ever fought in the United States of America.

And that's come to a screeching halt for those who've been vaccinated. It really has. Not a joke. This is overwhelming evidence to sustain that.

And so, what I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, even if you do "catch the virus", like people talk about it in normal terms, you're overwhelm -- not many people do. If you do, you're not likely to get sick. You're probably going to be symptomless. You're not going to be in a position where your -- where your life is in danger. So, it's really kind of basic.


VAUSE: President Biden predicted children under the age of 12 will be able to get vaccinated soon, saying he expects the federal government could greenlight the rollout for young Americans in the coming months.

Well, Syrian family and human rights groups are accusing Russian mercenaries in carrying out an horrific torture and murder, which was recorded on videos.

Still ahead, the victim's brother speaking exclusively to CNN.


ABDULLAH, MOHAMAD'S BROTHER (through translator): I want the world to hear about my brother's case, so these criminals are held accountable. My brother is gone. He will never come back.




VAUSE: Russian mercenaries have been accused of grave human rights abuses that in some cases, experts say could amount to war crimes.

CNN has reported extensively on the latest atrocities committed in Africa. We now bring you another report this time from Syria where the horrific torture and murder of a Syrian man in 2017 literally at the hands of Russian mercenaries is now a landmark case.

The first ever legal effort to hold Russian Wagner mercenaries accountable. Victim's brother spoke exclusively to CNN about the tragedy that has devastated his family and his dangerous quest for justice.

And a warning, the images you're about to see are extremely disturbing.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has our report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE OVER): A series of videos emerged beginning in 2017, revealing one of the most disturbing incidents of the war in Syria. An unarmed man taunted and tortured by four Russian speaking men in military fatigues. They pin him down and with a sledgehammer. They repeatedly strike his feet and his hands.

Screams of agony drowned out by the sound of nationalist Russian military music and their laughter. Later that year, and in 2019, more video clips of the incident surfaced online. There are too graphic to show, too gruesome to even detail. The men take turns dismembering and beheading their victim whose last words appear to be reciting the Shahada. A declaration of a Muslim's faith typically spoken as a death right.

Their perverse pleasure evident throughout this ordeal that played out in their makeshift Syrian desert torture chamber.

One of the men was identified in a 2019 investigation published by the independent Russian paper Novaya Gazeta as an alleged member of Wagner, the shadowy Russian private military entity with links to the Kremlin that's operated in Syria alongside Russian forces. The victim was identified as Mohamad A., a Syrian army deserter.

In 2019, Moscow said the reports, "Have nothing to do with Russian military operations in Syria." And requests by Novaya Gazeta to the country's main investigative body to launch a probe were dismissed.

Four years after that grisly killing, rights groups from Russia, France and Syria have filed legal action in Moscow in an attempt to trigger an investigation into the incident.

It is the first time anyone has ever tried to hold any member of Wagner accountable for what rights groups say is part of a growing list of alleged atrocities committed by the mercenaries with an expanding global footprint that allows Russia to advance an off the books foreign policy.

The case was filed on behalf of the victim's brother, who broke his family's silence in an exclusive CNN interview.

With the safety of family still inside Syria, Abdullah asked us to conceal his identity.

ABDULLAH (through translator): I want the world to hear about my brother's case, so these criminals are held accountable. My brother is gone. He will never come back.

KARADSHEH: Abdullah says Mohamad never took part in the war. To support his young family, he worked as a construction laborer in Lebanon. The last time Abdullah heard from him, Mohamad said he'd been detained by the regime on his way back into Syria and forced to join the military but he planned to desert. another home to Mars.


ABDULLAH (through translator): He said I'm going to leave but I don't know if I'll be able to get back to you. Take care of my children and my wife. It was as if he knew something was going to happen to him.

KARADSHEH: The family lost contact with Mohamad for months until this.

ABDULLAH (through translator): A man from our hometown sent me a video clip. He said watch this video, it could be your brother. Of course, I recognize my brother from his clothes, his voice, his appearance. He was being tortured by soldiers.

KARADSHEH: At first, Abdullah only got the torture video. And for months, the family held on to the hope that Mohamad may still be alive.

His father traveled to Damascus, he searched hospitals and jails for his son. Mohamad's death was only confirmed when the rest of the horrific videos appeared online.

Relaxed, smoking cigarettes, they posed for photos before setting his body on fire.

ABDULLAH (through translator): When I watched the video, I stayed in a room and I didn't leave the room for three days. I didn't send the video to my parents and my other brother developed a kind of psychological illness from the video.

We have a very heavy burden. I want to try to describe it now but I can't. I can't express what's going on inside me.

KARADSHEH: Abdullah's never heard of Wagner. He just wants his brother's executioner's punished.

ABDULLAH (through translator): If the criminals who tortured him are arrested, the least they deserve is jail. We will not be like them. We will not demand what happened to my brother happens to them. I just want them to be held accountable. Even if this cost me my life.

KARADSHEH: In a war where well documented atrocities have gone unpunished, Abdullah's quest for justice will not be easy.

How does anyone get justice from a faceless, shadowy Russian outfit unaccountable to anyone? One that officially doesn't even exist.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN.


VAUSE: Well, CNN reached out to Russia's Investigative Committee for comment, but so far there's been no response.

Wagner has been unreachable for a number of CNN reports in recent years, including this one.

Well, still to come, the crisis of the future is here with devastating proof from around the world. The impact of global warming is happening right now.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

[00:30:10] Well, for the past week alone, the world has witnessed unprecedented flooding, as well as record-breaking heat waves, and uncontrollable wildfires. A stark reminder scientists were right about climate change, and we have wasted three decades debating not what to do but was it even real.

The heaviest rain in the century brought flash floods to Europe, with more than 200 people dead in Germany and Belgium. And as the planet continues to heat, the science tells us intense downpours will become increasingly common.

In central China's Henan province, a year's worth of rain in just three days left roads and highways in major cities underwater. Subways, too, were flooded, killing at least 25 people.

Dozens of wildfires continue to burn across 13 U.S. states. The largest of them all is so intense it's creating its own weather patterns. So far this year, wildfires in Siberia have burned more than two and a half million hectares, and Greenpeace says Siberian snow is melting sooner, and droughts are lasting longer.

Well, to Los Angeles now, and Shyla Raghav, the vice president of climate change at Conservation International, a nonprofit environmental change group promoting sustainable development and biodiversity. Thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: OK, so the U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry, spoke with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, and Kerry said yes, the situation is grim, but there could be a silver lining. This is some good news. Here it is.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. CLIMATE ENVOY: In Germany, Belgium and the United States, in California and fires, people all around the planet are beginning to feel the impacts that were predicted years ago by the scientists. So there's no surprise in this, but it's -- it's right now, hopefully, will create an urgency, a level of engagement that nations need to provide in order to get the job done.

VAUSE: Do you agree with that assessment? Finally, the crisis now is so dire, ignoring it is no longer an option?

RAGHAV: Yes. I think John -- Envoy Kerry makes a really interesting point there. I think that when we've reached a point where we realize that we need to move from commitments to real action. And I really hope that this moment can serve as a wake-up call and that we can continue to talk about climate change with the same urgency, even after the floods recede and the fires dwindle.

Our actions today and stopping emissions today is not going to stop climate change in his tracks, but it will determine how much worse these effects will intensify and accelerate in the years to come. VAUSE: It does seem there are some snippets of positive, encouraging

news, among all of the bad, like this report we have here. Greenland suspends exploration for oil because of climate change, giving up an estimated 17.5 billion barrels of undiscovered crude.

Then there is this. Diana Six from Montana University, who studies insects, recently tweeted, "Glacier National Park, 97 degrees Fahrenheit" -- that's 36 degrees Celsius -- "in June. A little snow left, 75 degrees" -- almost 24 degrees Celsius -- "water. Glaciers disappearing. That is what we hear. But the worst is what we almost never see. The agony and death. My career is moving from being an ecologist to coroner, documenting life to documenting death."

Which is pretty stark in many ways. Overall, though, it seems like we still continue to tinker around the edges here. And we have still yet to take that really bold action which will result in systemic change. That's the area which we just can't seem to get to.

RAGHAV: hi. I completely agree. As someone who's dedicated my entire year to climate change, it's really at times been frustrating to see incremental and marginal action year after year, empty commitments or commitments not being met, and no real systemic change to the root causes of climate change.

But for me, it's actually been even more devastating to see that those who are least responsible for climate change and carbon emissions, being indigenous communities, minorities, women, and marginalized groups who are really suffering the worst consequences with sometimes no safety net.

So it's really about preventing these impacts from getting more severe, from making places uninhabitable, driving mass migrations and more, and a cost of not acting on climate change in some places, really is just a matter of maintaining our standard of living in real life. It's about survival.

VAUSE: Yes. And getting to a point of negative carbon within the -- the environment and the economy or the rest of is -- it seems impossible at this point. Neutral carbon is hard enough as it is.

But the longer time we do nothing, the longer time we have to mitigate the extreme weather events. Bloomberg is reporting "Greening Energy to Fight Climate Threat May Cost $92 Trillion." And that is a very big price tag. But what's the cost of business as usual?

RAGHAV: You're actually right that more than half of governments and companies have started to make net zero commitments, and have started to establish targets that are far out into the future, sometimes 2050.

But most immediately, governments need to take action, whether it's integrating climate action into COVID recovery and response measures, or investing in retraining our workforce, or putting in place incentives for clean technology.

And at the individual level, there's also things that we can do, whether it's consuming last, or demanding that corporate leaders make it easier for us to consume sustainable, and companies and financial institutions green their portfolios.

I think we're seeing that the risks and the costs of inaction far outweigh the cost that it would take to make those changes in our -- in our lives and in our economic system.

VAUSE: But very quickly, in hindsight, calling this, you know, planetary event global warming, was that a kind of huge mistake, one of the worst ideas ever? Because in a practical sense, that is what's happening.

But it also seems kind of misleading. It's implying, at worst, the sun will be a few degrees warmer or something. You know, when it's record- breaking snow because of climate change, it just seems like people can't grab the concept of extreme weather events because of global warming?

RAGHAV: Yes. I think it's hard to appreciate, but even because of the difference of the temperature change of half a degree can really have severe consequences.

And generally, the reason that the Paris agreement and other goals are oriented around limiting warming well below two degrees Celsius is that it's expected that warming above even 1.5 degrees above pre- industrial levels will significantly increase the probability of catastrophic impacts like coral bleaching or massive fires or major coastal cities being submerged.

And right now, we're at one degree of warming, and we're on track to surpass 1.5 degrees. So even a marginal increase in temperature can -- can have catastrophic effect. And perhaps it's upon us to find better ways of communicating the severity of those changes than a term like global warming or climate change.

VAUSE: Shyla, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

RAGHAV: Thank you.

VAUSE: Not even the coronavirus can dampen the excitement of some of the world's favorite underground sports going mainstream. The very latest on the new sports making their Olympic debut from Tokyo.


VAUSE: Well, Tokyo beginning to be unlike any Olympics of the modern era. Along with all the pandemic restrictions and other changes, there's also some major firsts.

Two new events making their Olympic debut on Sunday. That will be surfing and skateboarding. Skateboarding.

To Tokyo now and CNN's Blake Essig. So how is this going to work? You have the skateboarders and the surfers out there. What are some details here?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, these are -- you know, John, these are new Olympic games. Skateboarding, surfing making their debut.

Obviously, you know, very popular sports around the world. Finally preparing to make their Olympic debut, which is exciting, right? As far as skateboarding is concerned, this niche counterculture has become a global commodity and high fashion obsession, but while skateboarding has increasingly become mainstream, here in rural life in Japan, not everyone is convinced that perceptions will shift so quickly.



ESSIG (voice-over): At Triangle Park in Osaka, creativity is king. Here, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from or how much air you catch. It's all about innovation and self-expression.

CHOPPER, SKATEBOARDER FROM THE OSAKA DAGGERS (through translator): People should feel free when they skateboard. It's better if there are no rules.

ESSIG: For more than 30 years, this park has been home to Japan's underground skateboard scene, the birthplace of alternative skating. In a diverse group of skaters known around the globe as the Osaka Daggers.

Hayishima Nakamora (ph), better known as Chopper, is considered by many as its father. He's been skateboarding on the streets of Osaka since he was a teenager.

CHOPPER (through translator): Skateboarding represents freedom and diversity for me, so I'm trying to inspire younger people to value those ideas, too. We want to foster an environment where everyone is free to express their own unique style.

ESSIG (on camera): The Osaka Daggers are not a team but, instead, a culture, a pioneering group that was once considered nothing more than rebels and misfits, now represents the foundation of skateboarding here in Japan.

(voice-over): A foundation that Daisuke Hayakawa, the coach of the Japanese Olympic skateboard team, says will, in a sense, be on display when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut at the games here in Tokyo.

DAISUKE HAYAKAWA, JAPANESE OLYMPIC SKATEBOARD TEAM COACH (through translator): At the Olympics, people will be able to see how skaters express their creativity and ideas through skateboarding. While skateboarding became an Olympic sport, it's important to remember the culture around it.

ESSIG: A culture that could become more widely accepted as the sport goes mainstream.

HAYAKAWA (through translator): I think the future is bright for skateboarding. ESSIG: Back in Osaka, while the Olympics have already had a big

influence on shifting perceptions around skateboarding, these skaters say acceptance and change means a constant struggle, as skating here is still technically against city rules.

CHOPPER (through translator): From the outside, it looks like this park belongs to young people, but when we skateboard here, to please always come.

ESSIG: But that hasn't stopped Chopper and his crew from doing what they love at Triangle Park, and just down the street at the indoor skate park. Sharing the passion and culture embedded in their DNA with the next generation.

HOKUTO YONEMURA, SKATEBOARDER (through translator): I started skateboarding when I was 3. I think it's a really fun sport.

ESSIG: Hokuto Yonemura, at 9 years old, is the youngest Osaka Dagger. Talented skater with big aspirations.

YONEMURA (through translator): I want to make it to the Olympics, because I really want to win the gold medal.

ESSIG: A dream, starting this year, that could become a reality, a sport and culture collide for the world to see.


ESSIG: And skateboarding isn't the only sport making its Olympic debut. Other newcomers include speed climbing, karate, and surfing. Baseball and softball are also making their return to the Olympics after not been included since 2008 -- John.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there in Tokyo with the very latest on those new sports. Good stuff.

Thank you for watching. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour. In the meantime, WORLD SPORT is up next.