What's the best way to win an Olympic medal? The traditional answer is dedication, cutting-edge sports science, and an obsession with athletic performance. But at the 2012 Olympic games in London, there's an added factor in the mix: The countries that win the most gold medals are likely to be the ones with the best spies.
These spies aren't stealing state secrets, though — according to a The New York Times report, they're performing top-level recon on other countries' athletic efforts. The United States BMX team had cyclists ride the official London course with a 3D mapping device, recording every twist, turn, dip, and jump so a full-size replica could be built for training. And after Olympic officials changed the course in January to scuttle recon efforts, the U.S. sent another team to scout the updates and alter the practice course.
Other countries, meanwhile, have taken things even further. France has created an official agency, PrÃƒÂ©paration Olympique et Paralympique, tasked with winning through "athletic surveillance." The French have spent over $120,000 to custom build a search engine to collect and collate as much data about other countries' efforts as possible from the internet. So far, the French have not only learned about who the competition is, but also about their training techniques — after learning Australian rowers were undergoing cryotherapy to boost their recovery, France duplicated those efforts.
The PrÃƒÂ©paration Olympique et Paralympique is credited with helping the French win 41 medals in Beijing in 2008, and there are hopes that the intelligence picked up over the last four years will help them boost their medal count even higher in London. Says Fabien Canu, former director of the French agency, "Sports espionage is the reality these days."
[Image credit: Sprinter getting ready via Shutterstock]
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