Jamaican bobsled team gets to Olympics after internet appeal

An Australian-based, dog-themed crypto-currency called Dogecoin has come to the Jamaicans' rescue

LAST UPDATED AT 15:30 ON Tue 21 Jan 2014

THE Jamaican bobsled team will compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics next month thanks to an internet appeal that has raised thousands of dollars through a dog-themed virtual-currency. 

The two-man team announced on Sunday that it had qualified for the Games for the first time since 2002, even though Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon ended qualifying down in 39th place.

The first piece of luck came, as the BBC reports, when nine nations higher up the rankings subsequently withdrew because they had "already qualified their maximum number of sleds" in different events, allowing Jamaica to claim the 30th and final berth. It meant that driver Watts, a 46-year-old Jamaican-American who competed 12 years ago at the Salt Lake City Games, and brakeman Dixon had qualified for the Games.

Their joy was shortlived however, as Watts revealed that the team still needed significant financial help to get to Sochi.

Watts, who has spent £100,000 of his own money in the bid to qualify, then opened a PayPal account in the hope of making up a $40,000 shortfall through what is now known as crowdfunding. The Guardian reports that since then cash has been pouring in, much of it from unusual sources.

More than $25,000 has so far been raised in Dogecoin, a bizarre internet crypto-currency "based on a combination of Bitcoin and Doge, the internet meme that superimposes broken English written in Comic Sans [a typeface] onto pictures of Shiba Inu dogs".

The currency was created late last year by friends based in Australia and the US. The founders are all fans of the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings, which immortalises the exploits of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team and decided to help Watts and Dixon.

On hearing of the pair's plight, Sydney-based Liam Butler, launched an appeal called Dogesled. "We started without a concrete plan in mind," Butler told the Guardian. "I sent a few emails out... but that was the extent of it."

But such was the success of the appeal that they collected just over 26 million Dogecoins in just a few hours and the value of the currency began to rise. Butler, like any self-respecting internet mogul, was in a bar when he noticed that Dogecoin was surging in value.

"We raced back to my house to ensure we could get the best price for the donations in a form the team could actually use," explained Butler. "As much as we have faith in Dogecoin to become the community currency of the internet, we still understand that the team need to buy their airfares in a fiat currency."

Having exchanged the virtual Dogecoins into cold, hard cash, Butler was able to tell Watts he had $25,000 ready to send to the grateful Jamaican team. "It means the world to me," said Watts. "It means the world to Jamaica. We have dominated in summer sports like athletics and now we've qualified for the Winter Olympics." · 

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