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CNN NEWSROOM

Tokyo 2020 Officially Underway; Opening Ceremony in Virtually Empty Stadium; Two Pacific Storms Threaten Japan, China. Aired 12- 12:15a ET

Aired July 24, 2021 - 00:00   ET

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


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

It took a long time to get here but many of the world's finest athletes are finally able to show what they've got at this summer's Olympics in Tokyo. But even as the competition gets underway, COVID remains an ongoing worry.

Olympic officials have now linked 127 new cases in the games, including 17 in the past day alone. Fireworks announcing the start to a host city that can now only watch the games on TV or online.

With strict COVID protocols, fans have been banned from most venues. That includes the cavernous Olympic stadium, brand new and empty. Only a few thousand athletes and a small delegation of dignitaries were they're as Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron.

CNN's Blake Essig has been covering the Olympics in-depth and joins us now from just outside of Tokyo.

Blake, it's all underway. You're at one of the only places in Japan allowing the public to gather and view the Olympics. Just give us a sense of flavor of what you have been seeing.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, I will tell you I saw it yesterday and I see it today, even though it is not what anyone was hoping for, some people want to experience these games in any way possible and feel that Olympic atmosphere.

Yesterday that meant battling crowds to take a picture outside of the national stadium ahead of the opening ceremony.

For these people here behind me today, it means sitting in an auditorium on a beautiful day to watch the games and experience that Olympic spirit as a community. This is one of the only public live viewing sites in the country. There's only a handful currently taking place with COVID-19 cases surging in Tokyo and rising nationwide. Public viewings like this are incredibly rare; in fact, they've been

almost completely canceled on Tokyo and several other prefectures to limit the spread of infection. Of course, spectators have been banned from 88 percent of Olympic venues and 97 percent of all competitions.

It's for that reason that many people here say that, even though Japan is hosting the games, it feels like they're being held very far away. One of the few events that fans can watch in person is the finish of men's cycling road race, which is happening now and will end later on today near the base of Mt. Fuji.

About 10,000 people will be able to watch the finish of that race here. Where I am there are 500 people gathered and socially distanced to watch the action and feel that Olympic spirit.

HOLMES: Yes, it's not like everyone hoped for but it is something. Blake Essig in Oyama city, thank you so much. We will check in with you later. Appreciate it.

The games ultimately mean competition, of course, and medals. And there's already plenty to talk about.

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HOLMES: As the Tokyo games get underway, COVID-19 whipping through many Asian nations with Indonesia at the center of all of that. On Friday it set a new pandemic record for daily deaths for the third day in a row.

Brazil reporting its second highest daily case numbers ever on Friday. More than 108,000. Brazil ranks third in the world in total cases after the U.S. and India.

Amid reports of shortages and supply disruptions in the U.K., England making thousands of food industry workers exempt from COVID isolation rules. Scotland will also allow exemptions for food, health and transport workers.

At least 112 people are dead in western India after devastating monsoon rains. Many of the victims dying in landslides, others swept away in floods. The downfall washing out roads and cutting off hundreds of villages and officials fear dozens may be trapped.

Some areas received nearly 600 millimeters of rain, more than half a meter, in just a 24-hour period.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's 20 to 25 feet. The water level never rises to this height. This is happening for the first time. All the properties of the residents are destroyed. They have nothing to eat and drink.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Rescue operations continue but hundreds of villages and towns are still without electricity or drinking water. And India is not the only Asian country coping with heavy flooding. China's Henan province is cleaning up after those historic rains devastating the region over recent days.

Emergency management officials saying at least 56 people have been killed. This comes after as two storms are churning away in the western Pacific. Typhoon In-Fa is heading toward the coast of China and tropical storm Nepartak could affect the Olympics even, hitting mainland Japan early next week.

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HOLMES: From floods to devastating wildfires now ripping through areas that rarely burned before in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. As Tom Sater reports, climate change, you guessed it, has a lot to do with it.

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TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): This is known as one of the world's coldest cities. Now wildfires near Russia's Siberia blanket the area in smoky haze.

From above, Russian military drop water, hoping to douse the flames below, as they tear through some 800,000 hectares of forest.

In the western U.S., firefighters also taking measures to battle ongoing wildfires, dousing tracks and surrounding the area with water from a moving train in hopes of stopping the northern California Dixie fire from spreading.

For the north, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon is growing with incredible speed, becoming so intense it's creating its own weather formation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is very clear is that no corner of our state is immune to fire. On the West Coast and here in Oregon, the urgent and dangerous climate crisis has exacerbated conditions on the ground.

SATER (voice-over): Canada, the western U.S. and Russia all fighting massive fires. All seeing firsthand what scientists have warned about for years.

According to Copernicus climate change service those regions all experienced a drier than average June, turning their forests to tinder boxes. Now fires raging in those regions are releasing environment polluting aerosols into the air, one of the ways the blazes could be accelerating global warming as once periodic wildfires become more frequent and extreme than ever before -- Tom Sater, CNN.

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HOLMES: In Haiti, mourners, diplomats and demonstrators all gathered to pay their final respects to the assassinated president Jovenel Moise. He was laid to rest in his hometown of Cap-Haitien. Angry shouts and gunfire at times erupting in the somber ceremony as protesters accused authorities of failing to provide adequate security for the president.

Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home on July the 7th. The police arrested dozens of suspects, most of them Colombian, but no one has yet been formally charged.

His widow, Martine, who was wounded in the attack, called her late husband "a brilliant and creative soul" and made an apparent reference to the killers, warning the, quote, "birds of prey" are still out there and "their thirst for blood has not yet subsided."

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. I'll see you back in a bit. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is up next.