Top-level Zola row revealed
A CAMPAIGN to fast-track British citizenship for the South African runner Zola Budd triggered a major government rift, it has emerged.
The Foreign Office was barely able to conceal its fury over a perception the Home Office’s handling of the case was damaging international relations.
In early 1984 the teenager was regarded as a running sensation, setting a world record for the 5,000m at the tender age of 17.
But athletics authorities refused to recognise her feat, as South Africa was excluded from international competition because of its apartheid policy.
Previously unseen files reveal wrangling over the Budd affair went all the way up to secretary of state level, with letters from then Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe to Home Secretary Leon Brittan – and copied to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – showing his frustration.
But Budd registered as a British citizen in April 1984 and ran for Great Britain in the 3,000m at the Los Angeles Olympics.