Canadian athletes briefed on surveillance concerns ahead of Olympic

Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge and former Olympic medalist and Liberal MP for Milton Adam van Koeverden listen to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly as she talks about a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in China following caucus, Wednesday, December 8, 2021 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

OTTAWA -- Athletes representing Canada in the Beijing Winter Olympics next month are being told to take extra precautions against Chinese cyber surveillance, including the danger of electronic devices being infected with spyware.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says the government has been "working closely" with the Olympic and Paralympic committees, which are briefing and preparing athletes on security in China, including the risk of being hacked.

St. Onge said in an interview with The Canadian Press that for security reasons operational planning to protect athletes could not be disclosed, but she said safeguarding laptops and phones was one aspect of it.

The International Olympic Committee is giving phones and SIM cards to all athletes, including the Canadian team, to use while they are there.

The minister said the Canadian Olympic Committee has a "solid" plan in place to protect athletes and that the government was "well aware of the espionage and all these issues with China."

She said there is also a detailed plan to protect athletes from COVID-19.

St. Onge says the eyes of the world will be turned toward China during the Olympics, which start in three weeks' time.

As with all Olympic hosts, the Chinese will be responsible for making sure that athletes are safe and secure, she said.

The Canadian Paralympic committee said cybersecurity was a key feature of planning for its athletes. The Canadian Olympic committee was not immediately available for comment.

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