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Johns Hopkins: U.S. Averaging 97,500 New Cases Per Day; Australians Face New Lockdowns as COVID Cases Surge; 6,000 Hectares Burned in Greece Since Sunday; Lionel Messi Parts Ways with Spanish Football Team; IOC Revokes Accreditations of Two Belarusian Coaches; Inside the Gym that Let Biles Train for an Olympic Comeback; Women of Team U.S.A. are Racking up Olympic Medals; Raisi Calls for Lifting of Sanctions During Inauguration. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM:

Lionel Messi is stepping away from his football home of nearly 20 years. Why he's leaving Barcelona and where he could be heading next.

Thousands evacuating as wildfires tear across parts of southern Europe. More than 6,000 hectares burned in Greece alone. The prime minister says it's only going to get worse.

Also, still to come --


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They needed to find a way where Simone could train away from the media, away from when the cameras away from the scrutiny.


HOLMES: In a CNN exclusive, we'll take you inside the secret gym where Simone Biles worked to recover from the twisties.


HOLMES: New cases of coronavirus have now hit their highest levels in the U.S. in six months, averaging 97,000 per day. The highly contagious delta variant driving up new infections in almost every state. And the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the surge will worsen if people don't get vaccinated soon.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If we work together, unify as a country, vaccinate everyone who is interested and unvaccinated, and put our masks on to prevent disease, we could really control this in a matter of weeks. However, a model show that if we don't do so, we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day similar to our surge in early January.


HOLMES: There are encouraging signs the message is being heard by some. The U.S. as vaccination rates are again climbing with half the population now fully vaccinated. No one is talking about a new lockdown in the U.S., but that is not the case on China.

Extraordinary sight, an untold number of people in Zhengzhou in China confined inside their high rise apartments calling out for anyone to help.

Strict measures in Australia have failed to stop an alarming rise in new COVID cases, there which means more lockdowns in the nation weary of them.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Lynda Kinkade.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger and frustration on the streets of Melbourne, after the Victorian government declared the state of lockdown number six. Australians unable to leave the country for more than a year, now once again face restrictions on leaving their homes.

Virus weary demonstrators clashing with police as Australia's largest city struggled to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

DANIEL ANDREWS, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA PREMIER: The advice to me from the experts is that if we were to wait just a few days, there is every chance instead of being locked down for a week, this gets away from us and we are potentially lockdown until we all get vaccinated and that's months away.

KINKADE: Almost two thirds of Australia's 25 million people are now under lockdown. A highly contagious delta variant spreads. Sydney has been under lockdown for over 6 weeks, yet it recorded its worst day of the pandemic on Thursday, with a record rise in locally acquired infections.

GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIAN PREMIER: The delta strain is like nothing we've seen, and that is why the vaccine is actually tool. Fortunately, we do have that tool now available in Australia. But we are constrained to some types of supply obviously, which we've been talking about. But getting jabs into arms will massively help us reduce those case numbers and massively improve our ability to have additional freedoms moving forward.

KINKADE: Until now, Australia had avoided some of the worst consequences of the pandemic in part by shutting itself off from the rest of the world, since March of 2020, the country has kept its border virtually closed. Tourists not allowed to enter, Australians can't leave except under special circumstances. And tens of thousands of citizens stranded abroad have registered for government help to return home, help that hasn't come.


After more than a year of fortress Australia, frustration is growing at home and broad.

RODGER POWELL, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY SERVICES AUSTRALASIA : We're one of only two countries in the world where the citizens aren't allowed to leave the country. And the other is North Korea. which is not one we want to be held up against.

PHILLIP KOINIS, DIRECTOR, OXFORD TRAVEL: I'm hoping the more we are vaccinated, the more we will allow allowed to be more liberal in our quarantine systems, our departure systems. Right now, the exceptions are very difficult to obtain, and some people seem to be getting it a lot easier than others.

KINKADE: Australia's prime minister said last week at least 80 percent of the countries adults will have to be vaccinated for borders to reopen, but we don't need 20 percent of those over 16 fully inoculated against the virus.

It seems fortress Australia will stay largely locked down and closed off for the foreseeable future.

Linda Kinkade, CNN.


HOLMES: CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong.

Yeah, I mean, the thing with Australia, they kept a lid on COVID cases early on, but it's public dissent in restrictions. What's going on?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, but this slippery delta variant snuck in and it continues to spread despite lockdown that had been in place. Now we have lockdowns enforced for Sydney, for Melbourne, for Brisbane, for the three largest cities in Australia, over 60 percent of the total population of the country now is forced to stay at home.

In Victoria, it's now in lockdown for the sixth time since the beginning of the pandemic, and that triggered those ugly scenes of those angry anti-lockdown rallies and protests in Melbourne that you saw in that package you ran just now, but also in your screen. But the worst outbreak it continues to take place in Sydney were today Sydney and New South Wales reported 292 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic.

Australia have been cited as a pandemic success story. So what happened? Well, I pose that question to Deakin University chair of epidemiology, Dr. Catherine Bennett, under lockdown in Melbourne. This is what she had to say to us. Take a listen.


CATHERINE BENNETT, CHAIR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY: The methods were used successfully to keep returning to COVID zero and Australia while we were trying to run out the vaccine program, have now been defeated by this variant. It just moves too quickly for that normal test trace isolated approach to be implemented. Even with lockdowns in place, like in Sydney, we have seen the case numbers are along because we can't completely get ahead of the virus to close those outbreaks down.


STOUT: Dr. Catherine Bennett of Deakin University, there she and other disease experts point out two major factors that are feeling this delta surge sweeping across Australia, number one. The highly contagious nature of the delta variant, and the fact it is, and her words so slippery. It's able to evade and go past once proven pandemic restrictions, and protocols and, of course, the slow pace of vaccination.

So far, about 21 percent of the total population of Australia over the age of 16 have been inoculated -- Michael.

HOLMES: And before I let you go, what about the region more broadly, Southeast Asian region more broadly?

STOUT: Yeah, the delta variant continues to slam the Southeast Asia region.

Today, we learned in Thailand, it's reported a new daily record and another grim pandemic milestone of 191 new deaths caused by the coronavirus. Over 21,000 new cases of the coronavirus like Australia and Thailand had once been a pandemic success story. It's absolutely being ravaged by this variant.

The health care system is under pressure. We have been reporting on how they are now resorting to using this disused old train cars and turning them to COVID isolation wards.

It all goes down to vaccination. The pace of vaccination in Thailand is woefully slow. I got the number here, just 6 percent of the total population vaccinated.

We're also keeping an eye on the situation in the Philippines. The Philippines is second only to Indonesia for having the worst outbreak in Southeast Asia. And the city of manila entered yet another lockdown.

There were these chaotic scenes yesterday. People rushing to get in line to get vaccines in their arms. Vaccinations in the Philippines at 9.3 percent -- Michael.

HOLMES: Very, very worrying.

Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, appreciate it. Thank you.

And that China struggling to deal with new outbreaks, fueled by the delta variant.

Steven Jiang joins me now from Beijing to talk about that.

So, how is Beijing dealing with the climbing case count there?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Michael, you are asking early about the citywide lockdowns and actually we have seen them here in China as well. Not in major metropolises like Wuhan just yet, but local authorities in some smaller cities have imposed this kind of measure on their entire population. Smaller is relative in the Chinese context.


We are talking about, for example, the central city of Zhangjiajie, population, one and a half million. And increasingly, the city of Yangzhou in eastern Jiangsu province seems to be following suit as well. The population of that city, 4.5 million.

So, you know, really, the reality is millions of Chinese people are again being confined to their homes. A reflection of how seriously concerned the leadership feels about the continuous spread of this cluster of delta variant cases.

The latest figure we got from the government was 101 new locally transmitted cases recorded on Thursday. Obviously pales in comparison to many parts of the world, but here in this country, they hadn't seen this level of infection for months. That's why you see authorities across the country adapting the playbook of multiple rounds of mass testing, extensive contact tracing as well as increasingly draconian measures being reintroduced in addition to all the travel restrictions.

Education authorities have warned that the start of the new school year, for example, could be delayed in so called high and medium risk areas and we have now some 200 special occasions across China. All of this, of course, is part of the enormous costs of the government's zero tolerance policy towards locally transmitted cases.

But so far, little indication they are going to change course despite growing questions about their long term sustainability because from their perspective, it's been working for them, both politically and economically -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. I appreciate the report.

Steven Jiang there in Beijing for us.

Dr. Abhishek Rimal is the Asia Pacific Emergency Health Coordinator for the Red Cross and Red Crescent. He joins me now from Kuala Lumpur.

And thanks for doing so.

So the region in many cases managed to contain outbreaks last year, but now struggling with overwhelmed health services or lack of lots of things. What changed what went wrong with this new wave? DR. ABHISHEK RIMAL, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS & RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES: Thank you for having me in the call.

Like, as you have said, like the Asia Pacific have really done very well with the first wave of COVID-19.

But in the second way, what we have seen, which is regarded as the worst what we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, it is quite clear like the Delta variant, which is now fueling the current pandemic, is one of the major driver for these huge number of surge of COVID-19 across the region.

On top of that, we are now in the 20 month of COVID-19 pandemic. And this pandemic fatigue is slowly creeping into the people's mind. They really are sick and tired of all these regulations and want to go back to the normal life.

And what we have also seen in doing so they have lowered down their guards the protection against the COVID-19 which really allowed the virus to spread faster. And on top of that lack of mass vaccination across the region these can be attributed to the major surge.

HOLMES: I was about to ask you that Vietnam has fully vaccinated less than 1 percent of its population, Thailand around 5 percent, the Philippines 7.2, Indonesia, the epicenter, as we've said 7.6 that's according to our world in data.

What is the state of an outlook for vaccine supply and distribution across the region?

RIMA: So at this point of time, like what you have just said like the vaccine -- like vaccine roll out has been quite limited across the Asia Pacific. In the last one month we are seeing slight speeding up of the vaccination across the region, but it is far below the optimum level.

We are very excited to see like the announcement coming from the richer countries that millions of doses of vaccines are coming to Asia Pacific but these needs to turn into action as soon as possible and we must ensure like these doses reaches the arms of the beneficiary as soon as possible.

The lack of supply of COVID-19 vaccine is really hindering the mass vaccination campaign to be rolled out across Asia.

HOLMES: I know there's a lot of concern about the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, and its efficacy. And a lot of Southeast Asian nations are using that one.

I wanted to ask you, how much of an issue is it that in many countries in the region, people live day-to-day, don't they? If they don't work, they don't eat, which of course makes isolating pretty difficult.

RIMA: In terms of efficacy of the vaccine, with the rise of the delta variant, this was one of the concerns for some of already approved vaccines. But what -- there is strong evidence that clearly suggesting all the vaccines that have been approved by WHO, which also includes Sinopharm and Sinovac, that they are very effective in preventing severe disease, the hospitalization, and deaths.

So, we are encouraging everyone to go and get vaccinated, if the vaccine is available in their country.


And in terms of the rise in cases, isolation, et cetera, definitely what we have been seeing. It has disproportionately affected people who are more reliant on the informal economy. People are losing their jobs, it's at an all-time low. Poor families are even suffering more.

HOLMES: Right, we only have a minute left but I wanted to ask you this. We have seen several wealthy nations, new ones every day, turning to boosters, third shots. But it has been discussed, many times, potentially, vaccine defeating variants develop an environment where this rampant spread.

What are your concerns about wealthy nations using third doses, when other nations have none, or for you?

RIMA: Like unequal distribution of this vaccine, it is threatening this us all. The longest we allow this to say in the community, it will mutate, in a more dangerous strain will be there, and it can really reverse all the development that has been done in the regional countries. Even WHO is emphasizing that there is limited evidence of efficacies of booster dose.

What is important is coming, in short, all the countries get the first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, more and more people are vaccinated in low, and low middle income countries, and so no one is left behind. We almost agree, no one is safe, until everyone is safe.

HOLMES: Exactly, that is a lesson.

HOLMES: Dr. Abhishek Rimal in Kuala Lumpur. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

RIMAL: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: The devastating wildfires, threatening parts of southern Europe. Coming, up why some villagers, in Greece, are refusing to evacuate.

Also, U.S. president, Joe Biden, taking on lap around the White House after taking action to get more electric vehicles on America's roads. We will explain his ambitious new goal.

And then later, the women, competing for Team USA racking plenty of medals. We'll have a breakdown of some of the notable wins. That's when we come back.


HOLMES: A historic town in California, reduced to ashes, falling victim to a wildfire, with blistering speed. The Dixie Fire destroyed 3 quarters of Greenville, burning cars, homes, and other structures as well. The blaze spreading so fast, at one point, it burned the equivalent of 24 city blocks, wait for, it every minute. And, it is just one of 96 large wildfires burning in the U.S., scorching more than 8000 square kilometers. They are fueled by an extreme drought, high temperatures, and low humidity.

And, scorching wildfires also ravaging parts of southern Europe as intense heat plagues the region.


The Greek prime minister warning that the country is facing an extremely critical situation, as dozens of fires ripped through the country. Just north of Athens, hundreds of firefighters, battling a stubborn wildfire, that rekindle on Thursday, six regions have been placed on red alert for extreme fire hazard.

And while many people are evacuating, some are refusing to leave, instead, pushing into fight the flames closing in on their village.


GIANNIS KANELLOPOUOS, VILLAGER (through translator): Leave? And go where? Let my house burned? If we left, this place would have burned. We told the women, and the elderly, and the kids to go. And whoever is able, stayed to help however they could.


HOLMES: Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam for the latest.

It is all looking pretty dire, isn't it, in Greece?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, take a look at some of these new visuals coming out of the Athens suburbs, and you can see, some of the wildfires raging across the mountainous slopes, that's around Athens.

Just incredible, really a titanic effort for firefighters on the ground. Over 340 firefighters, currently battling this blaze. Several helicopters in the air, trying to douse out some of the embers. And, unfortunately, these wildfires are leaving bad quality of air in its wake as well.

So, in and around Athens, it is very difficult to breathe, and thick smoke, and haze, and of certain suburbs, this is all thanks to the wildfires, in and around the nation's capital.

Now, just in the past 24 hours, there have been 118,000 wild fires sparked has already been burning across the country, it's incredible. In fact, we've had over 6,000 hectares burned. Now, if you look back to 2020, the entire season, the entire year, in fact, only had over 10,000 hectares burned. So, that's just really puts in the perspective that we're in the early parts of August, still several months to go and they're dry, summer season, their fire season, so called. And we are going to be in for quite awhile. There is no real signs of stopping. The dry conditions, the heat, the wind, will continue. In fact, we're talking temperatures roughly 9, to 11 degrees Celsius above average, for many locations across Greece, across portions of the Adriatic, and even into Turkey where they have had wildfires ongoing.

There is a set of backdrops into when temperatures were near record breaking territory, all-time record breaking territory, on Tuesday. In Greece, temperatures of 47.1 were reported, the highest temperature at the continent, was a 48 degrees. Well, that's incredible.

After a brief reprieve in the heat, tomorrow, we will have more heat to build through the course of the early parts of next week. On top of that, the strong westerly winds that will impact Athens, and the surrounding areas, the Greek aisles, and you can see the conditions continuing, and in the next few days for southeastern Europe -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, possibly difficult couple of months, Derek, as you point out.

Thanks for that, Derek Van Dam, appreciate it.

Now, a new study, meanwhile, showing millions more people will be infected by increased flooding over the next decade. Climate scientists saying, that by 2030, 25 countries will be added to the 32, now dealing with increased flooding. The numbers are already rising.

Today, 86 million more people are exposed to flooding than they were in 2000. Reasons? A combination of climate change, and migration. Southern Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, at particular risk.

Scientists predict to Europe, and North America, will experience increased flooding as well. The report is in the journal, "Nature".

Tim Flannery is a Zoologist and Environmentalist. He joins me now live from Sydney and thanks for doing so.

I mean, we've already seen devastating floods in recent months in Europe and elsewhere. What are the flood risks which lay ahead because of climate change? What's your read?

TIM FLANNERY, ZOOLOGIST & ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, look the flood risks I think I'm right across the board. You know, floods come in many forms. We have floods that result from sea level rise from storm surge events. We have floods that occur just as a result of massive amounts of rainfall.

And then we have river flats where the whole catchment floods and has a big effect. And of course, climate change, loads the dice really in favor of more severe events right across the board.

HOLMES: There are already so called climate refugees, what happens to those who live not just in low lying areas, but low lying countries. I mean, there's a lot of them Bangladesh, Maldives, parts of Africa and so on, we're talking more than a billion people facing significant risk. What could be the results of that?

FLANNERY: Well, you know, if we take a place like Bangladesh, it's hard to see a good outcome there.


Because we're seeing a country that's very vulnerable to sea level rise, but also on a river delta, where as we get more extreme weather events as the atmosphere as the rainfall becomes more intense, people are left ever more vulnerable.

So I don't think we've worked out what the emergency room looks like for countries like that, you know, we need to take that three pronged approach, we need to stop the spread of this problem with climate change. We need to make sure our emergency room can take care of all of the casualties that are going to occur as a result of flooding, for example, and many other factors as well.

And then we're going to work towards the vaccine. We've got to heal our planet to make sure that in the future, we don't get more extreme flooding and fires and so forth.

HOLMES: And the vast majority of people at risk from climate change flooding I was reading I mean 90 percent according to some studies live in low and middle income countries with populations who have little choice in where to live, but where we're living and where we have to live a part of the problem.

FLANNERY: Well, that's right. And look, I think that this is going to be many different approaches to, or many different potential solutions to help people move about. So here in Australia, for example, among indigenous communities, where the clan based relationships are still intact.

People who are affected by flooding, for example, in Torres Strait are already being invited to neighboring islands, higher islands, where there's some arable land and so forth to join other communities. But in other parts of the world, those options aren't available.

So government's going to have to step in. And in countries like Bangladesh, where the capacity of governments very limited, you know, it's hard to see a good outcome.

HOLMES: You know the flows on effects are really disturbing. I mean, climate refugees, as we talked about, but there are also things like food insecurity. Food insecurity can lead to the potential for unrest, and, you know, all related to the impacts of flooding.

What are the mitigation? What are the risks, and what are the mitigation options?

FLANNERY: Well, you know, again, as you say, food security is one of the things that we are watching with an absolute eagle eye because it's been declining in recent years, these extreme weather events we're seeing are exacerbating that food security issue. And we need to have the capacity as a species to be able to deliver the food, that's where it's required and when it's required. There's nothing like starvation to cause implosions, you know, political groups instability, and none of us can afford that we've seen what happens with the COVID virus, for example, unless you treat everyone, yes.

So these are big challenges for our world. And I think, you know, we're just at the stage of realizing how profound they are? Certainly the Europeans, you know, who lived through that horrific flooding in Germany and Belgium, must be thinking as well.

How are we going to deal with this not just in Europe, but globally, because we can't afford the instability?

HOLMES: Absolutely. And it's not - it's not just the change. It's the pace of the change as well.

Tim Flannery, I've got to leave it there. Appreciate it, joining me from Sydney. Thanks.

FLANNERY: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

HOLMES: U.S. President Joe Biden tackling the climate crisis with a new executive order. The White House, announcing on Thursday, a goal that 50 percent of vehicles, sold in the U.S. by 2030, will be electric. Biden, even telling U.S. automakers, he wants to be the first person to drive an electric version of his favorite vehicle.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see that sucker over there? Zero to 60 in 4.1 seconds. It's all electric. I'll tell you what, and I want to say this publicly, I have a commitment from Mary when they make the first electric Corvette, I get to drive it. Right, Mary? You think I'm kidding, I'm not kidding.


HOLMES: And the president, wasting no time, making a lap around the White House in an electric Jeep. The Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Transportation, also announcing on Thursday, they are reversing a Trump era rollback of auto emissions standards.

Still to come on the program, Messi on the move. The Argentine football legend, leaving Barcelona. What the Catalan club says it is behind the decision.

Also --


RIPLEY: Simone was actually training, we're told, on this balance beam right here. She realized, this was the only event she was going to be able to compete in because there was no twisting movement involved. (END VIDEO CLIP)



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world.

I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The Argentine football legend Lionel Messi parting ways with Barcelona. The Spanish team says although both sides reached an agreement to renew his contract, quote, "financial and structural obstacles got in the way".

Messi has won an astonishing number of gongs, 35 trophies in his 17 years on the team. That includes 10 Spanish national titles, four Champions League wins. His contract which reportedly made him the world's highest paid athlete expired in June.

CNN World Sport anchor Patrick Snell joins me now with more on this.

You know, you're not going to tell me he is going to Tottenham. What can you tell me about it?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I would tell you if that were the case, Michael. But as of right now, I'm not going to say that.

You know, Paris Saint-Germain, now you come to mention it there, the French football giants, they reportedly are very much in the mix, or might even stay put. Who knows?

But look, it's going to be a crucial few hours ahead, no question about that. We are expected to hear from the Barcelona Club president Joan Laporta who has a press conference scheduled a little later on this Friday.

The Catalans -- let's just reset here for a bit -- the Catalans revealing that the 34-year-old Messi, as Michael said, currently a free agent right now -- will be leaving despite both parties having reached agreement on a new contract.

The other key words here, Michael, "due to financial and structural obstacles". The South American player widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time had seemingly agreed, remember early in the summer he seemingly agreed to a new five-year-deal on vastly reduced wages.

But under La Liga financial fair play rules, the club also had to restructure financially. And that, I feel is what is at the crux of this.

Barcelona reportedly have a total debt of more than a billion dollars right now. Messi, the club's all-time leading scorer as well and appearance maker has amassed the best part of 700 goals. I will say that again -- 700 goals just shy of that tally -- incredible stuff. A glittering trophy cabinet. He's won the prestigious Ballon d'Or six times as well, more than any other player in history.

I want to get to a Barcelona statement now. This from Thursday, which reads in part, "As the result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club, and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

Watch this space though, because it's going to be a busy Friday ahead on this. I think it's a fast-moving story, Michael. And it's far from done.


HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely.

I want to get your thoughts on the Olympics. I mean you and I were talking -- I love the story of the skateboarders, the 13-year-olds. That was my favorite story I think of the games.

But yet another teenager atop the podium.

SNELL: Yes. It's been incredible. You know, the teenage exploits and the feel-good situation around them as well. it's just been a terrific stuff at these summer games. A privilege to report on as well, might I add.

The latest is Spain's Alberto Gines-Lopez clinching the first ever gold medal -- this in climbing. It was a gripping men's final earlier that went right down to the wire.

Remember this another of the sports making its Olympic debut at the summer games in Japan. And what a moment for the 18-year-old who takes gold ahead of the USA's Nathaniel Coleman -- a huge test of endurance, you can be sure when it comes to that particular sport.

You know, these summer games proved one to savor for the Canadian Damian Warner who's now become his country's first ever Olympic gold medalist. It's in the decathlon, setting a new games record score as well of 9,018 points. The 31-year-old breaking Ashton Eaton's mark set at the Rio Games in Brazil in 2016.

Warner's gold medal, Canada's first decathlon medal since Dave Steen in 1988. He's now also the oldest Olympic champ ever in the men's decathlon.

And Poland Dawid Tomala has won gold in the men's 50-kilometer race walk after crossing the line in three hours, 50 minutes and 8 seconds. It could well be the last time actually this event is ever held at the Olympics.

The German competitor Jonathan Hilbert taking silver. Evan Dunfee of Canada earning bronze. You know, the race -- this is one of those races that had to be removed to Sapporo in the hope of avoiding soaring temperatures in Tokyo.

Great effort as, well. It's a great story. It gives us all hope, Michael. Great effort from Spain's Jesus Angel Garcia. The 51-year-old finishing 35th in his 8th Olympics having made his summer games debut in 1992.

It's just exhausting even reading those stats too. What an incredible achievement. You know, we have seen the youth rising to new heights. But what a great moment there for the 51-year-old.

Back to you.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly, for us old chaps. Thanks very much.

SNELL: Speak for yourself, mate.

HOLMES: Well, it's not, you youngster.

Thank you Patrick Snell. The youthful Patrick Snell. We will check in with you next hour.

Now, the International Olympic Committee has revoked the accreditations of two Belarusian coaches. It's part of its investigation into why a Belarusian Olympian begged for political asylum. The IOC says her coaches have been asked to leave the Olympic village but they will get a chance to be heard.

The sprinter, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, fled to Poland this week with a humanitarian visa, saying she feared being arrested back home. She had, publicly, criticized her team bosses who then tried to send her back to Belarus against her wishes.

But her family also warned it was too dangerous to return. Tsimanouskaya now says she is happy to be in Warsaw and in safety.


KRYSTSINA TSIMANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN ATHLETE: When I picked up my clothes and then go to the car, my grandmother to call me and to say you can't come back to home because on the TV, they say a lot of bad words about you that you have some mental problems. And maybe you can go to the hospital in Belarus or maybe to jail. We don't know.


HOLMES: CNN's Blake Essig is live for us this hour in Tokyo.

The hospital or jail. It's been 6 days since she was told to pack her things and return home. This is quite a development with her coaches now being told to pack up as well.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Michael, in a tweet earlier today, the IOC announced that it had removed and canceled the accreditations of the two Belarusian coaches for their roles in the alleged forceable removal of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya from the Olympic village.

Last Sunday, the sprinter was supposed to be preparing to make her Olympic debut in the women's 200 meter sprint. Instead, the 24-year- old posted a video to social media pleading for help. She said she was removed from competition, given one hour to pack her things and then ordered to fly back to Minsk immediately.

Now, this all happened after she criticized her coaches a few days earlier on social media for being included on a list to run an event which she had not prepared for.

Now, while at the airport the sprinter contacted Japanese police and asked for protection and has since flown to Poland after being offered a humanitarian visa, fearing that if she did return to Belarus, she would likely be arrested.

Here's what she had to say after her arrival in Poland.


TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): My parents looking at all this concluded that upon my return home, I'd be the face of psychiatric unit or prison.

We know that such situations do happen in our country. That's why my grandmother called me and told me please do not come back to Belarus. It's not safe for you here.

I think it would be safer for you if you seek some sort of political asylum and either stay in Tokyo or travel somewhere in Europe, but not to Belarus.



ESSIG: Now, Tsimanouskaya says she now feels safe and protected in Poland, but also saddened that she was deprived of the chance to participate in the Olympics.

According to a statement released by the Belarus Olympic Committee, the sprinter was removed from competition due to her emotional and psychological state. This is a claim that Tsimanouskaya denies.

IOC officials say a disciplinary commission has been set up to look into these circumstances around this incident, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Blake, thanks. Blake Essig there in Tokyo. Appreciate it.



(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Yes. Take a look at that. A hero's welcome for U.S. gymnastics superstars, Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles. Biles greeted her family and fans at the Houston Airport, coming home, of course, with silver and bronze medals after an unexpectedly challenging time in Tokyo.

Biles withdrew from several events after suffering from a mental block gymnasts called the twisties. But supporters and fans only saw victory in Biles' efforts. They showed their love, throwing a welcome home parade in Spring, Texas.

Now, one of the secrets to Simone Biles Olympic comeback was being able to train out of the public eye.

Will Ripley now gives us an exclusive look at the gym that gave her safe haven.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the first time that international television cameras have been allowed inside the Ogawa Gymnastics Arena since Simone Biles revealed that she came here to train in secret, after pulling out of Olympic competition because of mental health issues.

These are the uneven bars that she posted on her Instagram, where she was training for hours and hours on end to try to get over this condition the gymnasts called the twisties -- that disconnect between their mind and their body.

(voice over): After Simone had to pull out of the team all-around competition, the coaches here at Juntendo University about an hour outside of Tokyo said they got a call from Team U.S.A. They said they needed to find a place where Simone could train away from the media, away from the cameras, away from the scrutiny.

And so she came here.

(on camera): You were on the floor here with Simone. What was she like?

WATARU KAWAI, GYMNASTICS COACH, JUNTENDO UNIVERSITY (through translator): She was trying to do things she wasn't able to do. She was really trying to figure out what was wrong.

RIPLEY: How did Simone before the Olympics compare to the Simone that you saw training here?

KAWAI: She was very different. It looked like she was suffering. I was hoping I could do something to help her.

RIPLEY: Simone even left this "thank you" message on the white board of the Ogawa Gymnastics Arena. And she thanked Juntendo University on Twitter saying that she will be forever grateful for the chance to come here and try to get her skills back.

KAZUHIRO AOKI, PROFESSOR, JUNTENDO UNIVERSITY: Working with Team U.S.A., and helping get Simone back on her feet, if we were even a small part of that, I think it was a big success.

RIPLEY: Simone was actually training, we're told, on this balance beam right here. And she realized that this was the only event that she was going to be able to compete in because there was no twisting movement involved.

So she spent over a period of days in secret, hours inside this gymnastic serena trying to perfect her balance beam routine as best she could. So that she could make her return to the Olympics and win that bronze medal for Team U.S.A.

Will Ripley, CNN -- at Juntendo University outside Tokyo.


HOLMES: All right. Will Ripley there.

Now U.S. women athletes are taking the Olympics by storm in many ways. They've won medal after medal, a lot of them gold, of course.

Now, earlier the U.S. beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman minted another top prize for their team by defeating the Aussies.

CNN's Selina Wang with more.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Women are leading the way for Team U.S.A. at the Tokyo Olympics, Megan Harris and bringing home the first gold medal in Olympic history in the women's 200 meter canoe sprint. Swimming star Katie Ledecky earning two of them this year, including a historic victory in the inaugural 1,500-meter freestyle race.

KATIE LEDECKY, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: It's an amazing feeling to be bringing home two golds and two silvers here and to have competed in my third Olympics is something I never would have imagined.

WANG: The women of U.S. swimming standing on the podium for a total of 18 medals, including Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old Alaskan becoming an unexpected champion in the 100-meter breaststroke.

And in track and field, Sydney McLaughlin breaking her own world record speeding into first place in the 400-meter hurdles just ahead of teammate Dalilah Muhammad.

SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: I just want to set a good example, be the best that I can be and encourage people as well to be the best that they can be.

WANG: Valarie Allman the gold in women's discus with a throw of 68.98 meters.

And at 19 years old, Athing Mu is now the second youngest Olympic 800- meter champion. Women have earned 11 event medals for Team U.S.A. in track and field in the game so far.


WANG: Tamyra Mensa-Stock becoming the first black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold.

Team U.S.A.'s women's three on three basketball team earning the top spot in the inaugural tournament at the games.

And in Surfing, Carissa Moore riding the waves, to become the first Olympic surfing champion.

CARISSA MOORE, OLYMPIC SURFER: It means so much, especially coming from Hawaii. Surfing is our sport and it means a lot to bring it home not only for Hawaii, but the United States of America to serve for something bigger than myself.

WANG: Women's gymnastics winning six medals in the games, including a team silver. Suni Lee taking back a full set before she starts college this fall, with the gold in the individual all around competition.

SUNI LEE, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever get here, including injuries and stuff. So, there are definitely a lot of emotions.

WANG: Simone Biles withdrawing from the women's team final and four individual events due to mental health concerns and a bad case of the twisties. The star gymnast returning to compete in the balance beam and ultimately walking away with a bronze medal.

SIMONE BILES, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I am pretty happy. I wasn't expecting this medal. I just came out here and just tried to do a good beam set. Just to have one more opportunity to compete at the Olympics meant the world to me.

WANG: Selina Wang, CNN -- Tokyo.


HOLMES: Now, one of the Olympics' most exciting female athletes to watch is just 13 years old. Skateboarder Sky Brown became Britain's youngest Olympian to win a medal when she took bronze in Wednesday's park skating competition.

CNN's Coy Wire asked Brown what she wants to tell people watching at home.


SKY BROWN, OLYMPIC SKATEBOARDER: Get out there, try it. You know, try what your dream is and take baby steps. Like all that I have done is just take little baby steps, get little, like get better and better like little time and just take it slow and enjoy the journey.


HOLMES: She's awesome.

So what's the first thing Sky Brown says he will do when she gets home and where does she plan to keep her Olympic bronze medal? Find out in Coy Wire's full interview with the 13-year-old skateboarder coming up in the next hour.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Iran has sworn in an ultra- conservative president whose hardline positions may have major implications for the West.

We'll have the latest from Tehran after the break.


HOLMES: Now the U.S. urging Tigrayan forces to protect Ethiopia's extraordinary town of Lalibela after eyewitnesses said fighters captured the UNESCO World Heritage site.


HOLMES: Lalibela is a holy site for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and home to 11 medieval churches. CNN has been unable to independently verify reports Lalibela has been captured.

Now, in June the Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front rejected the Ethiopian government's offer of a ceasefire in the country's devastating conflict. On Thursday, the U.S. again calling on all parties to end the violence.

Ultra-conservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi has been sworn in as Iran's new president. The inauguration of the former chief justice coming at a crucial time for the nation.

Iran is in the midst of negotiations, of course, on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal as its economy suffers under U.S. sanctions.

Raisi on Thursday calling for the lifting of those sanctions and saying he will support diplomatic efforts to make that happen.

But as CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains from Tehran, Raisi also wants to try some new approaches.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran's new president Ebrahim Raisi certainly gave a very confident and a very bold speech during his inauguration here in Tehran.

And there were several factors to that one of them certainly was Iran's economy where it does seem as though Iran could be embarking in a new direction than the one that we saw from the Hassan Rouhani administration, which will rely less on trying to mend ties with western nations, European nations and the United States. And less on trying to make sanctions relief happen. And more on trade here in the region.

Raisi kept talking about trying to establish better ties with countries in the region, specifically Iran's neighbors but also countries in Africa for instance as well.

Now, Raisi did say that there is going to continue to be a very bold foreign policy on the part of Iran. And he says he believes that is a good thing for the region.

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: The Islamic Republic's power in the region creates security. Our regional capabilities support stability and peace in various nations. And it will only be used to fight hegemonic powers.

The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic is completely peaceful.

PLEITGEN: But of course, despite all of this, sanctions relief is something that is still very important to the Iranians and certainly something that would be quite necessary to jumpstart the economy.

One of the things that Raisi also said is that he would support negotiations to try and get rid of those sanctions. And of course, one of the things that that seems to indicate is that the Iranians and this new administration is going to support the negotiations to try and jumpstart the Iran nuclear agreement.

So far it seems as though those negotiations are at an impasse. The Iranians say they want to revive the deal. They want to bring the U.S. back and they certainly want to come into compliance again but Raisi has also said he doesn't want to do that at any cost.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Tehran.


HOLMES: Now imagine you are at an airport waiting to board a plane. You look up and you notice this.


EMMA KEANE, SUBJECT OF BOTCHED VIRAL PORTRAIT: He's just staring at me and drawing, and staring and drawing. Then I'm like, is this creepy? Or is this awesome. I decided it was awesome.


HOLMES: After the break, we will get the rest of this bizarre story from this young social media user.

We will be right back.



HOLMES: Well, it's not every day an artist goes viral for not doing a good job.

Jeanne Moos talks to a TikToker who went from flattered to mortified thanks to a man's attempt to sketch her.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You know all those botched art restorations in Spain that are always good for a laugh? Well, imagine you're the one being restored.

Waking up from a nap at Minneapolis Airport early in the morning and seeing a young guy seated across from you.

KEANE: He's just staring at me and drawing, staring at me and drawing. Then I'm like, is this creepy? Or is this awesome? I decided it was awesome.

MOOS: 18-year-old Emma Keane was on her first cross-country trip alone waiting for a connecting flight to Los Angeles. She admits she felt flattered and even handed up for the artiste.

KEANE: I was posing. I was posing.

MOOS: After about half an hour, the guy approached --

KEANE: And hands me this.

MOOS: Emma says she had been hoping for something along the lines of "Titanic".

KATE WINSLET, ACTOR: Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls.

MOOS: But instead --

KEANE: I was getting drawn like a South Park character.

MOOS: The guy who signed the sketch "Joe" told her --

KEANE: I'm sorry if this is weird, but I drew you.

Immediately, I was just like oh. Oh wow, ok.

MOOS: But to her admirer, she said --

KEANE: Oh my gosh, thank you. That's so sweet of you. You did a good job.

MOOS: Emma, who is studying psychology and neuroscience says it was like Napoleon Dynamite inviting Tricia to the dance by drawing her.

JON HEDER, ACTOR: It took nearly three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip.

TINA MAJORINO, ACTOR: I have angry eyes. MOOS: Among objects to her mask, drawn as if she weren't wearing it

over her nose when she says she was. Her messy hair and that blob of a body.

KEANE: I was humbled.

Moos: They spent 40 minutes talking before their flight left for L.A.

KEANE: He ended being like a very sweet boy.

MOOS: Since the drawing went viral, Emma's might received other portraits to compensate and the original is chilling on the fridge.

KEANE: It was my dad's idea. My family thinks it's hysterical.

MOOS: It may have been a failed pick up ploy, but at least she can't complain that he didn't get her good side.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.


HOLMES: All right. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN.

But do stick around. I will back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.