15th July 2022

Tinker Tailor Sprinter Spy – The Americano

This is an unused entry from “Thinking Drinkers Almanac” featuring The Americano and Vermouth

Date: August 31

Drink: Americano

Event; CIA recruit wins Silver in the 100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Unsurprisingly, David Sime’s Wikipedia entry doesn’t mention anything about being a spy or working for the CIA.

There’s plenty about him being America’s most promising all-round athlete whilst at University – offered lucrative contracts by the Detroit Lions and baseball’s New York Giant – and some more about Sime’s impressive medical career.

But conspicuous by its absence is his involvement in “Operation Aerodynamic”, a secret CIA plot to persuade Ukrainian athletes at the 1960 Rome Olympics to defect to the West – they should have called it “Tinker, Tailor, Sprinter, Spy”.

Anyway, led by a Ukrainian assassin called Mikola Lebed and involving some sneaky Vatican clergyman, ‘Operation Aerodynamic’ recruited Cime to coax Ukrainian long-jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan across Cold War lines.

In between competing in heats, and with KGB agents crawling over the Italian capital, the two athletes drank Americanos together at a restaurant in Rome – where they were met by a CIA agent who went by the name Mr. Wolf.

“He was kind of slimy,” Sime later recalled in an interview with David Moranis, author of “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed The World’. “I wouldn’t trust the son of a bitch as far as I could throw him.” Which wasn’t far – Sime was a sprinter, not a Javelin thrower or shot-putter.

Anyway, days after Sime had finished second in the 100m final, following a stumble out of the blocks, he went for dinner again with Ter-Ovanesyan – who’d secured a bronze in the sandpit. Things were going well until Mr Wolf turned up, agitated, muttering something in Ukrainian to Ter-Ovanesyan.

Whatever Wolf said, Ter-Ovanesyan didn’t like it. The seriously spooked long-jumper refused to speak to Mr. Wolf anymore and scarpered, stopping only to tell Sime “I’m scared”.

The CIA, recalled Sime, had blown it.

Some years later, when Sime met his Ukrainian acquaintance at a track and field meeting in New York, Ter-Ovaneysan told him “I can’t speak to you”. And the two never exchanged words again.

Ter-Ovaneysan never defected, “Operation Aerodynamic” was mothballed in the 1980s, having failed wholeheartedly in its mission, and Sime, his career as both an Olympic sprinter and a CIA operative now over, became a pioneer in the field of ophthalmology.


30ml Campari

30ml sweet vermouth

Soda water

Lemon zest

Pour the Campari and vermouth into a glass filled with ice and stir. Top with a splash of soda, squeeze the lemon zest over the surface of the drink and discard. Garnish with half an orange slice.

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