tv 60 Minutes CBS June 24, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> kroft: greg mortenson's book "three cups of tea" is a publishing phenomenon that has made him a celebrity, a cult- like figure on the lecture circuit and inspired people to give nearly $60 million to his charity. it all began with one simple story. >> it's a beautiful story, and it's a lie. >> kroft: we wanted to talk to mortenson about that and some other things, but he didn't want to talk to "60 minutes." do you have five minutes for us today? >> um... >> stahl: warren buffet, america's second richest man, is a household name. his son howard, not so much.
and yet he's the person warren buffet wants to succeed him as chairman of berkshire hathaway, the mega holding company that buffet built. like his father, howard does not live the high life. in fact, he's a farmer who would rather dig up the ground than sit in a board room. are you sure he's your son? >> well, i think that's worth checking out. you'll have a big exclusive. >> simon: novak djovocic captured the u.s. open last september. that was after winning his first 41 matches. it was one of the best starts ever. >> it was incredible. it was historical. it will be in the history books, but i'll remember it as the best six months that i ever had. >> simon: the serbian idol's life may have just begun. this season he's already won the australian open.
and unlike the other tennis royals, nadal and federer, he seems to be having a really good time. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stall. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." ♪ send a note stay informed catch a show. make your point make a memory make a masterpiece. read something watch something and learn something. do it all more beautifully, with the retina display on ipad. one is for a clean, wedomestic energy future that puts us in control. our abundant natural gas is already saving us money,
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education, especially for girls, in remote parts of pakistan and afghanistan. president obama donated $100,000 to the group from the proceeds of his nobel prize. mortenson's book, "three cups of tea," has sold more than four million copies and has been required reading for u.s. servicemen bound for afghanistan. but after receiving complaints from former donors, board members, staffers and charity watchdogs, we began what turned out to be a seven-month investigation. the story, which aired last year, had major consequences, raising serious questions about how millions of dollars were being spent, whether mortenson was personally benefiting from his charity, and whether some of the most dramatic and inspiring stories in his books are even true. greg mortenson's books have made him a publishing phenomenon and a sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit, where he has attained a cult-like status.
( applause ) he regularly draws crowds of several thousand people and $30,000 per engagement. and everywhere mortenson goes, he brings an inspirational message built around a story that forms the cornerstone of "three cups of tea" and his various ventures-- how, in 1993, he tried and failed to reach the summit of k-2, the world's second tallest mountain, to honor his dead sister; how he got lost and separated from his party on the descent and stumbled into a tiny village called korphe. >> greg mortenson: my pants were ripped in half, and i hadn't taken a bath in 84 days. and i stumbled into a little village called korphe, where i was befriended by the people and they gave me everything they had-- their yak butter, their tea. they put warm blankets over me, and they helped nurse me back to health. >> kroft: mortenson tells how he discovered 84 children in the back of the village, writing their school lessons with sticks in the dust. >> mortenson: and when a young
girl named chocho came up to me, and said, "can you help us build a school?," i made a rash promise that day, and i said, "i promise i'll help you build a school." little did i know it would change my life forever. >> kroft: it's a powerful and heartwarming tale that has motivated millions of people to buy his books and to contribute nearly $60 million to his charity. >> jon krakauer: it's a beautiful story, and it's a lie. >> kroft: jon krakauer is also a best-selling author and mountaineer, who wrote "into thin air" and "into the wild." he was one of mortenson's earliest backers, donating $75,000 to his non-profit organization. but after a few years, krakauer says he withdrew his support over concerns that the charity was being mismanaged, and he later learned that the korphe tale that launched mortenson into prominence was simply not true. did he stumble into this village in a weakened state? >> krakauer: absolutely not. >> kroft: so, nobody helped him out and nursed him back to health. >> krakauer: absolutely not.
i... i have spoken to one of his companions, a close friend who hiked out from k2 with him. this companion said, "greg never heard of korphe till a year later." >> kroft: strangely enough, krakauer's version of events is backed up by greg mortenson himself in his earliest telling of the story. in an article he wrote for the newsletter of the american himalayan foundation after his descent from k-2, mortenson makes no mention of his experience in korphe, although he did write that he hoped to build a school in another village called khane. we managed to track down the two porters who accompanied mortenson and spoke to them in pakistan's remote hushe valley. they also told us that mortenson didn't stumble into korphe lost and alone, and that he didn't go to korphe at all until nearly a year later on another visit. he did build a school in korphe. >> krakauer: he did, and it's a good thing. but if you go back and read the first few chapters of that book, you realize, "i'm being taken for a ride here." >> mortenson: one of the most compelling experiences i had was in july of '96.
>> kroft: it's not a solitary example. upon close examination, some of the most touching and harrowing tales in mortenson's books appear to have been either greatly exaggerated or made up out of whole cloth. >> mortenson: i went in to the area to find a place to build a school. and what happened is, i got kidnapped by the taliban for eight days. >> kroft: the kidnapping story was featured in "three cups of tea" and referred to in his follow-up bestseller, "stones into schools," with this 1996 photograph of his alleged captors. we managed to locate four men who were there when the photo was taken; two of them actually appear in the picture. all of them insist they are not taliban and that greg mortenson was not kidnapped. they also gave us another photo of the group with mortenson holding the ak-47. one of the men, mansur khan mahsud, is the research director of a respected think tank in islamabad and has produced scholarly articles published in the u.s.
until recently, he had no idea that he had been shown as a kidnapper in a best-selling book. >> mansur khan mahsud: that's me. >> kroft: we spoke with mahsud via skype. he told us that he and the other people in the photograph were mortenson's protectors in waziristan, not his abductors. the story, as mr. mortenson tells it, is that he was held for eight days and won you over by asking for a koran and promising to build schools in the area. is that true? >> mahsud: this is totally false, and he is lying. he was not kidnapped. >> kroft: who are these people that are also in the picture? >> mahsud: some are my cousins. some are our friends from our village. >> kroft: well, why do you think mr. mortenson would write this? >> mahsud: to sell his book. >> kroft: another place where no one has done much checking is into the financial records of mortenson's non-profit organization, the central asia institute, which builds and funds the schools in pakistan and afghanistan, and is located in bozeman, montana, where
mortenson lives. he says the charity took in $23 million in contributions in 2010-- some it from thousands of school children who emptied their piggy banks to help its "pennies for peace" program, and some of it from large fundraisers like this one in santa clara, california. >> we got a $1,500 bid here. she's got to get to that school getting built, ladies and gentlemen, tonight! >> kroft: this organization's been around for 14 years. how many audited financial statements has it issued? >> daniel borochoff: one. ( laughs ) >> kroft: one. >> borochoff: it's amazing that they could get away with that. >> kroft: daniel borochoff is president of the american institute of philanthropy, which has been examining and rating charitable organizations for the last two decades. he says the central asia institute's financial statements show a lack of transparency and a troublesome intermingling of mortenson's personal business interests with the charity's public purpose. according to the documents, the non-profit spends more money
domestically promoting the importance of building schools in afghanistan and pakistan than it does actually constructing and funding them overseas. >> borochoff: what's surprising is that most of the program spending is not to help kids in pakistan and afghanistan; it's actually their, what they call, domestic outreach where he goes around the country speaking, and the costs incurred for that-- things like travel-- is a major component of that, you know. just advertising... >> kroft: what does that mean? >> borochoff: sounds like a book tour to me. >> kroft: his point is that when greg mortenson travels all over the country at the charity's expense, he is promoting and selling his books and collecting speaking fees that the charity does not appear to be sharing in. according to the financial statement, the charity receives no income from the bestsellers and little if any income from mortenson's paid speaking engagements, while listing $1.7 million in "book-related expenses."
the $1.7 million that they spent for book-related expenses is more than they spent on all of their schools in pakistan last year. >> borochoff: correct. >> kroft: what do you say... i mean... >> borochoff: it's disappointing. you would hope that... that they would be spending a lot more on the schools in pakistan than they would on... on book- related costs. why doesn't mr. mortenson spend his own money on the book- related costs? he's the one getting the revenues. >> kroft: in fiscal year 2009, the charity spent $1.5 million on advertising to promote mortenson's books in national publications like this full-page ad in the "new yorker," and there are $1.3 million in domestic travel expenses, some of it for private jets. late last night, we received a statement from the board of directors of the central asia institute acknowledging that it receives no royalties or income from greg mortenson's book sales or speaking engagements. but the board says the books and the speeches are an integral part of its mission, by raising public awareness and generating contributions.
and it claims that mortenson has personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization. but the american institute of philanthropy is not persuaded. >> borochoff: i don't think the charity's getting a fair share here, based on the financial reports that i've reviewed. >> kroft: do you think contributors are being misled? >> borochoff: i think so. >> kroft: and so does jon krakauer, who says it's been going on for a long time. >> krakauer: in 2002, his board treasurer quit, resigned, along with the board president and two other board members, and said, "you should stop giving money to greg." >> kroft: did he say why? >> krakauer: he said, in so many words, that greg uses central asia institute as his private a.t.m. machine, that there's no accounting, he has no receipts. >> kroft: over the years, a half a dozen staffers and board members have resigned over similar concerns, especially about money mortenson has sent overseas to build schools. >> krakauer: you know, nobody is overseeing what... what goes on. he doesn't know how many schools he's built. nobody knows how much these schools cost.
>> kroft: the i.r.s. tax return central asia institute filed in 2010 included a list of 141 schools that it claimed to have built or supported in pakistan and afghanistan. over a six-month period, we visited or looked into nearly 30 of them. some were performing well, but roughly half were empty, built by somebody else, or not receiving support at all. some were being used to store spinach, or hay for livestock. others had not received any money from mortenson's charity in years. the principal of this school told us that the institute had built six classrooms poorly several years ago, and since then, not a single rupee. in afghanistan, we could find no evidence that six of the schools even existed, most of them in war-torn kunar province. >> krakauer: in kunar province, it's really violent. he built three schools there in 2009. so he goes on "charlie rose," he says he built 11 schools in kunar province. >> mortenson: today, we have 11 schools also in that district.
>> krakauer: why can't he just say he built three? i mean, that's impressive. you say you built 11, i go, "why are you lying about this?" >> kroft: one of the schools we looked into in afghanistan is this one in bozoi gumbaz, a remote outpost in the wakhan corridor, on the roof of the world. mortenson's second book, "stones into schools," begins with abdul rashid khan, the leader of a semi-nomadic people, sending horsemen to summon mortenson to his camp. the book ends with khan on his deathbed, ordering every available yak in the high pamir to haul supplies for a school that will serve 200 children. but ted callahan, an anthropologist who spent nearly a year in the area, says the story doesn't ring true. >> ted callahan: the number of children that this one school's going to educate-- that's just nonsense. the words that abdul rashid khan says in this book-- this is a man who probably came to my tent every day for an hour or two, and the man that i knew is not the man who's portrayed in this book. >> kroft: you seem to be saying that most of it is b.s. >> callahan: the most generous
thing i could say is that it's... it's grossly exaggerated. and probably the harshest thing i could say is... is a lot of it just sounds like outright fabrication. >> kroft: we obviously wanted to talk to greg mortenson, who has appeared on just about every news and talk show on television, but he didn't want to talk to "60 minutes." he dismissed our initial request for an interview last fall, and our follow-up messages and emails over the past two weeks have gone unanswered. we finally decided to seek him out at a speaking engagement and book signing in atlanta. steve kroft. >> mortenson: nice to meet you. >> kroft: how you doing? >> mortenson: thanks. >> kroft: you got five minute for us today? >> mortenson: i need to sign these books right now, so... >> kroft: yeah, i know. you know, we haven't heard from... it's been almost a week. we haven't heard from you or the board, and we're just trying to... >> mortenson: i need to sign these right now. >> kroft: i don't want to disrupt this, but... >> mortenson: well, you're already disrupting it, so, thanks. >> kroft: okay. can we come back? we'll wait for you. >> mortenson: thanks. >> hey, how are you? >> kroft: mortenson's staff immediately contacted hotel
security, which asked us to leave. they told us if we retired to the lobby, one of his staff members would stop by or call us to discuss a possible interview. they never did. mortenson canceled his afternoon appearance and left the hotel through a back entrance. >> krakauer: he's not bernie madoff. i mean, let's be clear-- he has done a lot of good. he has helped thousands of... of school kids in pakistan and afghanistan. he has become perhaps the world's most effective spokesperson for girls' education in developing countries, and he deserves credit for that. nevertheless, he is now threatening to bring it all down, to destroy all of it by this fraud and by these lies. >> kroft: after our story aired, greg mortenson dropped off the lecture circuit and became the subject of an investigation by montana attorney general steve bullock, who concluded that mortenson had failed to reimburse his charity for more than a million dollars in expenses related to the promotion and the sales of his book.
as part of the settlement with the attorney general's office, mortenson agreed to pay the money back, and the charity agreed to install a new board and a new executive director. mortenson is allowed to remain with the charity as an employee, but he is prohibited from holding any position involving financial oversight. things she does still make you take notice. there are a million reasons why.
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his son's qualifications for the job? as we reported last december, for most of his adult life, howard, the middle of buffett's three children, has been a corn and soybean farmer in nebraska and illinois. when he's not up on his tractor, he spends his time using his farming skills and his father's money to help alleviate world hunger. like his dad, howard does not live the high life. unlike his dad, he loves getting down in the dirt. this is the man who will become the next chairman of the company-acquiring, investment- picking, money-making machine berkshire hathaway, if warren buffett has his way. howard is a farmer who would rather dig up the ground and drive big machines than sit in a boardroom. were you stunned? were you surprised? >> howard buffett: i was surprised. >> stahl: but no sign that he's about to leave? >> buffett: he won't leave until he's buried in the ground.
i hate to put it that way. >> stahl: this is no gentleman farmer. howard buffett works his 1,500 acres in pana, illinois, himself. we're going to go pick corn? >> buffett: yeah, we're going to pick corn. >> stahl: this year, he harvested 87,000 bushels of corn with his 300-horsepower combine that he runs hands-free off g.p.s. you're like a kid, you know, who can ride his bike without his hands, right? >> buffett: it's a big toy. >> stahl: it's a big toy... >> buffett: but it's expensive. >> stahl: but with corn prices soaring, he can afford it. and, incidentally, even a farmer named buffett can get farm subsidies. howard received $300,000 in federal payments over 13 years. here's something you said once. this is a quote. "it seemed nothing i could do would be as successful as what he did," meaning dad. >> buffett: that comment would mean that, in the world's eyes, you know, i would never be seen in the same success as he would,
particularly in investing and in business. that's okay. and i mean, you know... and my mom and dad always made it clear that that was okay. >> warren buffett: there's no sense in trying to compete with me because he's not going to play my game. he should have his own game. grain shipments were down a lot last week. >> stahl: warren buffett says he always told howard to find something he loved as much as he loved making money. >> warren buffett: naturally, i have a lot of top secret stuff. >> howard buffett: you always do. ( laughs ) >> stahl: you're all business. i think of you as "mister indoors." the... the numbers... >> warren buffett: you got it. ( laughter ) >> stahl: i got it. so here you have this son... >> warren buffett: i know. >> stahl: he's a farmer, he's outdoors, he's down in the dirt. are you sure he's your son? >> warren buffett: well i think that's worth checking out. ( laughs ) you'll have a big exclusive. >> stahl: well, he is really different. explain that. >> warren buffett: he likes not only farming, he likes machines, too. he likes doing big things, you know, moving dirt. and he just is happiest when he's working hard. i'm happiest when i'm just kind
of sitting around watching football. >> stahl: howard's different in another way-- he's an active, hands-on philanthropist who visits up to 20 countries a year. the howard g. buffett foundation focuses on world hunger, spending $50 million a year on projects like feeding programs in ethiopia and agriculture education in afghanistan, and he records it all through the lens of his own camera. >> howard buffett: you, all of a sudden, begin to kind of look around, and you notice, "there's a lot of people around that don't look too good," and, you know, they're hungry. and they don't have great living quarters, they may not have access to water, they don't have good sanitation. >> stahl: you were seeing farmers who couldn't feed themselves? >> howard buffett: oh, absolutely. i looked at that and i thought, you know, "this... this is wrong. i understand agriculture. i should be able to do something about this." >> stahl: in places like el salvador, he's funding a training program for 5,000 poor farmers like carla and edwin trujillo.
they learn new planting and fertilizing techniques to improve the quality of their corn and red beans. >> howard buffett: carla, i'm howard. >> carla trujillo: hola. mucho gusto. >> howard buffett: buenos dias. >> stahl: we tagged along as howard inspected their six-acre plot in the tiny village of san juan el espino. >> howard buffett: and she's got an irrigation system. >> stahl: no big combines here. and their irrigation? it consists of hoses connected to a barrel of water brought in by horse. howard wanted to check on the quality of carla's corn. >> howard buffett: does she mind... tell her i won't destroy her corn crop... >> stahl: and that meant doing his favorite thing. you're going to dig it up? >> howard buffett: yeah. >> stahl: come on. he didn't just dig up her corn; he was like a doctor doing an invasive exam, pulling up the roots, ripping it open... >> howard buffett: you always have tough husks in this part of the world. >> stahl: ...and cracking it in half. his verdict? >> howard buffett: you've done an excellent job with... with what you got.
>> stahl: since howard's program started, carla has doubled her income. in one way, at least, he is like his dad-- he insists that the farmers learn accounting and managing credit, and that they buy their own seed. >> howard buffett: they're looking for the standard kernels. >> stahl: howard buffett is making a big difference, but on a small scale. he started out giving farmers the best of modern agricultural technology, but now he only teaches methods they can afford themselves after his projects end. howard's passion for farming started early. when he was just five, he turned the family backyard into a cornfield. his father was fast becoming a multi-millionaire, but the family always lived modestly. did you know, as a kid, that you were rich? >> howard buffett: no, not at all. and... and the greatest story is my sister who, when you had to go around the room in grade school and answer, "what does
your father do?" and, you know, we knew him as a security analyst, and we had no idea what that really meant. and so, she basically said, "well, he's a security guard." ( laughter ) and that's what we thought for a long time. we just didn't know any differently, you know? >> stahl: as his father's fame and fortune grew, howard seemed to zig and zag on his own path, dropping out of three colleges, one after the next. you must've been worried, or concerned. >> warren buffett: i wasn't. >> stahl: you weren't? >> warren buffett: no, i wasn't. he was just kind of finding what he wanted to do. >> stahl: and so it didn't... >> warren buffett: so it made no difference to me if he found it in a college or not. >> stahl: really? now, that is an unusual parent. >> warren buffett: it is an unusual parent. but it was the way both his mother and i felt. none of our kids graduated from college. now, if they pool all of their credits, we can get a degree. >> stahl: one degree. >> warren buffett: yeah. just pass it around. >> stahl: once howard settled on farming, warren bought land for him, but then made his son pay rent and tied it to his body weight.
so, if you gain weight, your rent goes up, and if you lose weight, the rent goes down. >> warren buffett: something like that. financial incentives are supposed to work in some things. they don't work very well in weight, incidentally. >> stahl: but why wouldn't you just give your son a farm? >> warren buffett: well, i just don't think that's, you know, the way to bring up a son. i mean, i don't think he's entitled to be given a farm just because his last name is buffett. we didn't want them to see the world, you know, through the lens of a super-rich kid that got everything he wanted. >> stahl: you just didn't want spoiled little rich kids. >> warren buffett: yeah. yeah. >> stahl: warren buffett was famously unwilling to give his money away to charity... >> warren buffett: i'm turning it over to you. >> stahl: ...so it came as a big surprise five years ago when he donated the vast bulk of his fortune-- some $31 billion-- to the gates foundation. >> bill gates: it's a big challenge to make sure his money gets used in the right way. >> stahl: bill gates is often described as warren's "third son." they vacation together, spend their birthdays together.
so the size of his gift to gates left an impression that the buffett children were given short shrift. warren buffett doesn't believe in inherited wealth? >> warren buffett: i don't believe in lots of inherited wealth. i haven't been spending my life trying to figure out how to transfer wealth and not have taxes and all of that so there can be a dynasty of all kinds of little buffetts going around for hundreds of years, never having to do anything. >> stahl: but don't cry for those little buffetts. howard, his brother peter, and sister susan have gotten multi- million dollar gifts of money and berkshire hathaway stock from their parents. so while he's not on the fortune 500, howard is, by any measure, a wealthy man. on top of the outright gifts, each buffett child is getting a billion dollars to go towards their philanthropy. but all that pales next to the $31 billion that's going to the gates foundation. so did you know, as far back as you can remember, that you were not going to inherit his money...? >> howard buffett: yeah, yeah. >> stahl: ...the bulk of it?
you've sort of always known that as you were growing up? >> howard buffett: yeah, yeah. and from time to time, that was a little frustrating. ( laughs ) >> stahl: because you wanted it, or what do you mean? >> howard buffett: well, i just mean, you feel like that there are a lot of things you could do if you had more money. and i think that way, even in the foundation. >> stahl: but here's the irony-- bill gates is spending a huge chunk of warren buffett's money on poor farmers in africa, giving them hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilizers. it's exactly the kind of high- tech approach howard tried and now feels is doomed to fail with farmers who make barely a dollar a day. >> stahl: well, you know bill gates. have you said to him, "80% of what you're throwing down there in africa is not going to work?" >> howard buffett: well, i said it a little differently, i think. and that is that we need to quit thinking about trying to do it like we do it in america. >> gates: well, howie's the farmer here. so he can speak with knowledge. i'm the city boy on the panel. >> stahl: bill gates and howard buffett were both honored recently at the state department
for their work on combating world hunger, work underwritten, in both cases, by the largesse of warren buffett. so your father gives all this money to gates. you come out and tell us what he's doing is all wrong. >> howard buffett: i'm not saying it's all wrong. >> stahl: well, a lot of it's wrong. little bit of sibling rivalry there? >> howard buffett: no. >> stahl: maybe. >> howard buffett: no, you know, that's why we call him "brother bill." but... but... ( laughs ) >> stahl: exactly. >> howard buffett: no, i... you know what? bill gates is the smartest guy in the world, next to my dad, maybe. i better say that if i'm on tape. >> stahl: how old are you? >> warren buffett: i'm 81, but i feel good. >> stahl: yeah, you look great. warren buffett says, if the berkshire hathaway board approves his son as chairman after he dies, howard would not be paid and would not run the company day to day. howard would be what warren calls the "guardian of the culture." what were you worried about? >> warren buffett: well, you worry that somebody will be in charge of berkshire that uses it as their own sandbox, in some way; that changes the way that
decisions are made in reference to the shareholders or some... you know, the odds of that happening are very, very, very low. but having howie there adds just one extra layer of protection. >> stahl: i guess someone who's on the outside looking in would say, "but what does he know about this business?" >> warren buffett: oh, he knows plenty about the business. >> stahl: does he? >> warren buffett: in the sense of the values of the business, sure, sure. i mean, he doesn't know what insurance policy we're writing today, you know, or how many carloads of the... the bnsf carried last week or something. but he knows the values of it. >> stahl: besides, howard is the only one of buffett's children who has been a corporate executive-- in agribusiness-- and the only one who has ever served on the berkshire board. let me just make sure i understand you-- you will not be picking investments. >> howard buffett: absolutely not. and i shouldn't, i mean, you know. >> stahl: do you have concerns about taking over this big role? >> howard buffett: well, as long as i can keep farming, i'm okay. ( laughs )
>> stahl: and as long as he can keep funding projects in remote regions of the world, where, as we found, he is still working on becoming a household name. what did you know about howard buffett before? had you ever heard of him? >> trujillo: no. >> stahl: never heard of him? >> trujillo: no, no. ( laughs ) >> stahl: had you ever heard of his father? he has a very famous father, warren buffett. had you ever heard of him? >> trujillo: si. >> howard buffett: oh. i'm impressed. update presented by follow the wings. 28-year-old australian shot 62 today to win the travelers championship and his fore tour victory. in baseball, the white sox beat the brewers in ten innings. and then they acquired infielder kevin youkilis in a trade with the red sox. in soccer, italy beat england in penalty kicks to earn a spot in the european championship semifinals. for more sports news and information, go to cbssports.com. jim nantz reporting from cromwell, connecticut. ,,,,,,,,
>> simon: we want our athletes to amaze us, our entertainers to amuse us. but one guy who can do both? doesn't happen very often. until his loss in the french open final two weeks ago, novak djokovic had won three straight grand slam tournaments, including an epic five-hour, 53- minute victory over rafael nadal in the australian open. from his earliest days on the circuit, he wowed the crowds with his ground strokes, and had them howling over his on-court impersonations of other tennis stars. but as we first reported in march, not everyone was laughing. some of those champions were asking, "where did this clown come from?" the answer-- serbia, a small balkan country whose only claim to fame, or infamy, in recent decades has been the brutal role it played in the wars that broke up the former yugoslavia. so when novak djokovic won the wimbledon title last july, it was a gift to the nation.
( cheers and applause ) and the nation took to the streets to greet novak djokovic when he brought the trophy back to belgrade. it seemed all of serbia emerged from years of darkness to salute someone who made them proud. >> novak djokovic: it was amazing. i felt that all the city was on the streets. it was incredible, incredible. >> simon: you know why you felt that? because all the city was. >> djokovic: because it was. ( laughs ) >> simon: there were multitudes on the bridges. on the ground, there was brandy. ( cheers and applause ) >> djokovic: this is the city. >> simon: the central square of the city was teeming with joy, a hundred thousand people. novak was hailed as the most glorious serbian hero since... well, since a very long time... >> djokovic >> djokovic: it was a paradise. it was like a dream, you know. your people are waiting for you in the square. you realize your two biggest goals in life, your dreams to win wimbledon, to become number one in a couple days' time. i mean, i could not ask for more.
( cheers and applause ) >> simon: novak couldn't have asked for more from his 2011 season. he captured the u.s. open last september to accompany titles at wimbledon and the australian open. to begin the year, he won his first 41 matches, one of the best starts ever recorded. >> djokovic: it was incredible. it was historical. it will be in the history books. but i'll remember it as the best six months that i ever had. >> simon: he rocked the sport's royalty, rafael nadal and roger federer. and unlike them, he seemed to be having fun. that a player from a small, war- torn country with little tennis tradition could become the game's superstar? who could have seen it coming? >> djokovic: in my case, i can sincerely say that nothing is impossible. i started at a times when they
were really critical times for our country, and when i was saying i want to become number one of the world and i was seven, eight years old, most of the people were laughing to me. because you know, it seemed like i have 1% of chances to do that. and i've done it. >> simon: novak's dreams began on a mountain top. it was here at this modest ski resort that a tennis court was built one summer across from the pizzeria his family ran. jelena gencic was running a tennis camp there and spotted this kid watching from the fence. she handed him a racket and, within a few days, she knew. did you think he could be a champion? >> jelena gencic: yes. >> simon: right away? >> gencic: right. and i told to parents, "your child is a golden child." >> simon: a golden child? >> gencic: he will be the best in the world. >> simon: and he was six and a half then? >> gencic: five and a half. they couldn't believe. they were in shock.
>> simon: young novak became a phenomenon, so much so that, at age seven, he was invited on serbian national tv. >> djokovic: ( speaking serbian ) >> simon: he said his goal was to be number one in the world. he was dead serious. on visits to his coach's house, novak admired the national trophies she had won as a player. but his visions had already gone far beyond her trophies, all the way to wimbledon. >> djokovic: i was dreaming about wimbledon. i was visualizing wimbledon. and as a kid, i remember i took a little improvised trophy that i think i made from a little piece of plastic. i kind of lift that trophy and i said on english, "hello. my name is novak djokovic and i'm a wimbledon winner." >> simon: jelena spent hours and hours working with novak on the court. but she wanted her prodigy to have more than a forehand and a backhand. you also played classical music for him. >> gencic: yeah, of course.
>> simon: and read him poems... >> gencic: of course. >> simon: ...by pushkin. >> gencic: of course. >> simon: was this going to help his tennis or just make him a better human being? >> gencic: a better human being. >> djokovic: i had to know at least two languages. i ad to listen to classical music because it calms me down, calms my nerves down. i can be more... >> simon: did you enjoy it then? >> djokovic: i did. and i still do. >> simon: the tennis court served as a haven for novak because the country he had been born into, yugoslavia, was coming apart, quickly and violently. did you realize that, when you started climbing the tennis ladder, that your country was falling down? >> djokovic: yes, yes, that was the period that nobody likes to remember. >> simon: yugoslavia split into separate countries. the world blamed serbia for the bloodshed. the country's leaders were accused of war crimes. in 1999, as the conflict spread to the province of kosovo, the
americans and other nato countries bombed serbia for 78 days and nights. the djokovic family took shelter in belgrade. >> djokovic: we were very scared. everybody was very afraid because the whole city was under attack. >> simon: they sought refuge here, in his grandfather's apartment. novak took us there. novak, his grandfather, parents, two younger brothers, aunts and uncles all lived in this two- bedroom flat during the blitz. the building had a basement. when the air raid sirens sounded, they retreated there, which was as close as they could get to safety. >> djokovic: this is where practically we stayed right, right here, right inside. >> simon: how many of you? >> djokovic: many, many... everybody who could fit here, they came. you know, and there was no really limitation. >> simon: novak says the family spent every night in the basement for the first two weeks of the bombing.
but you continued playing tennis. >> djokovic: i continued playing tennis every day. >> simon: and did you lose your focus at all? >> djokovic: at the first couple of weeks, i did. ( laughs ) i did, yes, i have to say. because we were waking up every single night, more or less, at 2:00, 3:00 a.m. for two and a half months, every single... >> simon: because of the bombing... >> djokovic: every single night, yes. but, you know, i always try to remember those days in... in a positive, in a very bright way. let's say i... we didn't need to go to school and we played more tennis. >> simon: so, in a way... >> djokovic: yes... >> simon: ...the war helped you become a champion. >> djokovic: in a way. >> simon: it made you tougher. >> djokovic: yeah, it made us tougher. it made us more hungry, more hungry for the success. >> simon: there are still some scarred buildings in belgrade, but for today's serbs, they could be ancient ruins. they want to reinvent themselves as trendy, friendly europeans. and this is the nation's new face. wherever you go in belgrade, you can't avoid him, which is exactly the way serbs want it to be.
the president of serbia has said that you are the best public relations the country has ever had. >> djokovic: that's a lot of responsibility. ( laughs ) >> simon: do you feel the pressure? >> djokovic: i feel the pressure. >> simon: you know, i don't think federer feels that he is carrying the prestige of switzerland on his shoulders. but serbia's counting on you. you're carrying serbia on your shoulders. >> djokovic: but it's because we have a harder way to succeed in life as serbs because of the past that we had and because of the history that we had. we have to dig deeper, and we have to do much more in order to be seen and to be spotted. >> simon: novak made sure he was spotted at the 2007 u.s. open. after his quarterfinal victory, he impersonated some of tennis's top stars in front of 20,000 people, a comedian's dream. ( cheers and applause ) his impersonation of tennis ace
and beauty queen maria sharapova was a hit. ( laughter ) new yorkers ate it up. how did sharapova react after you impersonated her? >> djokovic: she was laughing. ( laughter ) >> simon: but he really brought the house down with his imitation of spanish star rafael nadal's pre-match gyrations... and a habit he has with his shorts. ( laughter ) did nadal think it was funny? >> djokovic: at the start, not so much. >> simon: but after awhile, people became more fascinated by novak's antics than by his tennis. >> djokovic: i mean, i'm serving four-all, 30-all, important match. and a guy goes, "hey, novak, do the impersonation of sharapova. we like that. this is too boring," you know? so, make me laugh. i haven't done it lately. i haven't done it. >> simon: why not? >> djokovic: i don't want to get anybody offended.
that's, you know, in the end... >> simon: you don't want to get anybody offended. >> djokovic: no, i don't. >> simon: hang on, now... ( laughs ) >> djokovic: i know, i know. >> simon: you're impersonating nadal taking his tennis shorts out of his butt and you don't think that's going to offend him? >> djokovic: i didn't want to get him offended twice. ( laughter ) >> simon: i see. novak is having a love affair with the camera, and will do anything for it... like standing on the wing of a plane as it takes off. yes, that is novak wing-walking in a commercial for head, his racket maker and sponsor. why did you do that? >> djokovic: my mother asked me the same thing. >> simon: i bet she did. >> djokovic: it was crazy. it's one of the craziest things i've done in my life, for sure. >> simon: we followed novak to bulgaria, where hollywood was waiting, a small but killer role in this summer's "the expendables 2."
his ground strokes were literally lethal now against terrorists. ( applause ) >> when you finish with the tennis career, you know where to come. >> simon: the offers have poured in since novak became number one. to get there, he had to vanquish two legends, nadal and federer. for four years, he just couldn't beat the guys who had dominated the sport. >> djokovic: there was no self belief on the court... >> simon: lost your confidence. >> djokovic: ...when i played against them. >> simon: what was it? >> djokovic: i get afraid from winning. you know, i just... >> simon: get afraid from winning? >> djokovic: let's put in a simple way. i had too much respect for them. >> simon: that stopped last year. he beat nadal and federer ten out of 11 times. all season, everything clicked. his first serve was not easy to return. his returns were even more
remarkable. he got to balls no one thought possible, sliding on hard courts and contorting his body like a yoga master. ( cheers and applause ) >> simon: when he beat nadal for the wimbledon championship, he had achieved what so few humans ever achieve-- he had fulfilled his childhood fantasy. did you think about that child when you won wimbledon? >> djokovic: i did. when i finished the match, when i ate the piece of grass, i had the flashback of my whole childhood, what i've been through-- memories, first tennis courts that i grew up on, the days spent in belgrade. it was beautiful. >> simon: a couple of months ago, novak revisited one of those memories to meet someone he hadn't seen in years, his first coach, jelena gencic. >> gencic: we dream so long time... >> simon: he was with the woman who'd first seen who he was. and he wanted to share something
with her, that wimbledon trophy. ( laughter ) >> djokovic: this was... >> gencic: our dream. >> djokovic: the trophy, the trophy which we were standing in front of the mirror and lifting up the improvised trophies and dreaming of holding this one, one day. >> gencic: come in, come in. >> djokovic: i always wanted to do this-- her trophies... >> gencic: and your trophy... >> djokovic: but not any trophy- - the one. the one is here. ( laughs ) >> go to 60minutesovertime.com to see if bob simon can win a single point against novak djokovic. recently, students from 31 countries took part in a science test. the top academic performers surprised some people. so did the country that came in 17th place. let's raise the bar and elevate our academic standards.
>> kroft: i'm steve kroft. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." how do you know it's summer time? well, i'm flipping burgers and talking about the ford summer sales event. "oh, wow." "now this would definitely be the car i would want to get." like the fusion? "we love the fusion." mileage matters? "absolutely." up to 33 miles per gallon. the sync system. you can take all the music and put it into the hard-drive. he just got a glimpse of some 21st century technology and he's flipping out. don't miss the ford summer sales event. get a fusion with 0% financing for 60 months plus $1750 cash back. now at your local ford dealer. serving up fords...with everything on them.