Cool Runnings is a retelling of the story of the famous 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, who, against all odds, made it to the finals and crashed at the last second, prompting the invention of the slow clap.
There really was a Jamaican bobsled team in the 1988 Olympics … and that’s about as far as the similarities go. First of all, the members were not failed sprinters who approached a disgraced gold medalist to train them; they were recruited from the army by American businessmen, who saw the Jamaicans playing around with pushcart street races and figured hurtling them down a giant ice slide at 100 miles per hour in a metal box was a logical next step. They held open tryouts, and when that wasn’t enough, they turned to an army colonel who “donated” his helicopter pilot, apparently working off the logic that if you can drive one dangerous vehicle, you can drive any of them.
The movie shows the other teams being openly hostile toward the Jamaicans, presumably out of jealousy for their awesome uniforms, but the real team felt nothing but support from the others. As Devon Harris, one of the real bobsledders, told the Guardian, “We didn’t experience any animosity from other teams as depicted in the movie. One of the East Germans smiled at me and gave me a badge.” Yes, an East German smiled. They should have made the movie about that.
“I watched it 3 or 4 times when I was a kid,” Adigun told BuzzFeed News when asked if the movie inspired the team to make the leap from track and field to bobsledding, like the Jamaican team immortalized in the classic Disney film.
“But honestly, coming up with this team had very little to do with the actual movie and everything to do with the legacy it created.” she said. “I won’t lie though, I definitely thought about driving with a ‘lucky egg.’”
Jamaica’s underfunded underdogs are going back to the Olympics—and this time their trip is backed not by wealthy businessmen but by a legion of generous Internet fans.
Bobsled driver Winston Watts and brakeman Marvin Dixon qualified for the Sochi Games, but their entry was in jeopardy after they came up $80,000 short of the funding needed to make the trip.
Enter the Internet.
Crowdfunding sites Crowdtilt and Indiegogo took up the Jamaicans’ cause, hauling in six figures in just two days from donors around the world (the original fundraising deadline was nine days). “The outpouring of support at the grassroots level through crowdfunding sites was tremendous and humbling,” said Chris Stokes, a member of the 1988 team that inspired the movie Cool Runnings and the current head of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation.
Read more. [Image: Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images; National Journal illustration]