13 Feb: The Jamaican Bobsled Team

The Winter Olympics kicked off in Calgary on 13th February, 1988 – but the stand-out stars of the event did not qualify for a medal. Rather, the four-man Jamaican Bobsled team – who would later become (unreliably) immortalised in the Disney comedy ‘Cool Runnings’ – became a testament to the intersection of determination, investment, and sporting excellence.

The brainchild of Americans George Fitch and William Maloney, the concept was influenced by Jamaica’s annual Pushcart Derby, and supported in part by the Tourist Board. Participants, including helicopter pilot Dudley Stokes, were recruited via the pair’s connections to the Jamaican military.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly pick out fact from fiction in the Hollywood retelling of the saga; consider the legacy of Jamaica’s first-time involvement with this cold-weather sport; and reveal how reggae music really did help the team make it to the competition… 

Further Reading:

• ‘I Was in The Jamaican Bobsled Team That Inspired ‘Cool Runnings” (Newsweek, 2022): https://www.newsweek.com/i-was-jamaican-bobsled-team-that-inspired-cool-runnings-1675732

• ‘Jamaican bobsleigh team: Everything you need to know about Cool Runnings, the 1988 Olympic Games, and more’ (Olympics, 2021): https://olympics.com/en/news/jamaican-bobsleigh-team-1988-winter-olympics

• ‘Jamaican Bobsleigh Team Debut At Calgary Winter Olympics’ (Olympics, 1988):