Team GB athletes offered temporary phones over China spying fears
- British delegation can take own devices to Winter Olympics
- Dutch Olympians told to leave phones at home
The British Olympic Association will offer temporary phones to Team GB athletes and staff at next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing after fears they could be spied on by the Chinese government.
While the British delegation will not be banned from taking their own mobile devices, they have been warned against doing so by the BOA because it fears the authorities could install spyware to extract private information or track future activity.
A BOA spokesperson said: “We’ve given athletes and staff practical advice so that they can make their own choice as to whether they take their personal devices to the Games, or not. Where they do not want to take their own equipment, we have provisioned temporary devices for them to use.”
The Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) has gone a step further by telling its athletes not to bring their personal mobile phones or laptops because it anticipates China may carry out surveillance on electronic devices during the Games.
The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant said the NOC*NSF would give athletes and support staff phones and laptops which will be destroyed when they return home.
NOC*NSF spokesperson Geert Slot declined to discuss specific cases but said cybersecurity was part of the risk assessment. “The importance of cybersecurity has grown over the years,” he said. “But China has completely closed off its internet, which makes it a specific case.”
As at previous Olympics, Team GB athletes wanting to raise awareness of political issues during the event have been advised to discuss this with the BOA before doing so. However, athletes will be able to post on social media while in Beijing, with China allowing access to Twitter and Facebook for foreign athletes and journalists during the Games.