Top-level Zola row re­vealed

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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.

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