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espionage and sport


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Sport and spies appear at first an unlikely pairing, but the incipient and then expansive internationalism of sport make it ideal for the apparently innocent global movement of selected individuals; and within certain societies, the sport club or the leisure outing may be the informal setting in which cautionary fronts are dropped and reportable sentiments uttered. At the heart of the Cold War, the tense political rivalry between the US-led capitalist West and the USSR-led communist world, international teams and squads could cross borders unscrutinized, including advisers, alleged medical specialists, attachés, shadowy diplomatic figures in the Olympic circus. International relations experts have been known to train in specialist institutes in Washington DC, and then appear in the line-up of the Olympic team's personnel. One US academic close to the Olympic movement has asked, but requested not to be quoted on this: ‘Are there spies in American sport?’ In the Cold War at least, the answer would have been an unequivocal ‘yes’. The US's international relations with China have warmed in recent decades, as have in recent years even those with Cuba, but the rationale for the use of sport as a vehicle for espionage retains some currency. With relation to forms of intra-societal surveillance—spying within the community, or even the family—the former German Democratic Republic's Stasi remains the most notorious case.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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