Cool Runnings: Idea to Actuality

The 1993 movie, Cool Runnings, was a loose depiction of the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team who competed in both 2 and 4 man sled races. The idea hatched by former athlete and businessman, George Fitch, and challenge to a friend that if Jamaicans are athletes that they could compete in any sport even Winter ones. This led to organizing a team for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in Bobsledding.

Combining a small country budget with a George Fitch donation, the Jamaican team set off for the Northern cold to practice, run on ice for the first time, and to operate two and four man Bobsleds. The two man team finished 30th out of 41 entries while the 4 man team did not finish the third round because of a violent crash. All four team members laughed it off as they picked up the broken sled and walked off.

Prior to the four man race, the Jamaicans needed a 4 person sled and didn’t have one that worked. This is where determined businessman Fitch and his wife started selling Jamaican Olympic T-shirts and earned over $24,000 to buy a sled from one of the other competitors. Though only about 1% accurate, the Cool Runnings movie was based on the first Jamaican Bobsled team to compete in a Winter Olympic event.

George Fitch came up with the idea and since their first Winter exposure Jamaica has qualified for most of the succeeding Winter Olympics including a female team in 2018. Though the highest finishing of any Jamaican team was a 13th placing in 1994, other tropical countries organized Winter Bobsled teams because they knew it was possible.

The purpose of this article is to show the power of an idea, pursuit of the idea, and actively making it happen.

In Calgary, the Jamaicans did not have a competition worthy four man sled which George Fitch and his wife were decidedly determined to come up with $25,000 to buy a sled from one of the other competing teams. The Jamaicans were novelty and exciting because of where they came from and caused the average spectator audience to explode from the expected 5,000 to over 40,000 showing up. The Fitch’s sold many T-shirts to buy a sled solidifying Jamaican Bobsled legacy history ensconced in the popular movie, Cool Runnings.

For you treading through traditional obstacles, giving up, mustering a half ass effort, or adopting the role of helpless victim, George Fitch saw a bigger vision and when confronted with the challenge of no money and needing $25,000 for a sled and a day to get it, he and his wife dug in and did it. The Jamaican Bobsledders stirred excitement in the cold North and increased fan attendance 800%. Imagination hatched an idea, created something from nothing, and 32 years later, generations of Jamaican Bobsledders including a Women’s Team enjoy their spot on the world’s largest athletic stage. I say to you: Cool Runnings, Man, you have to believe it before you can see it!

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