Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Jamaican bobsled team benefits from Internet currency

The Guardian

A group of supporters have raised more than US$25,000 worth of the Internet currency dogecoin to help the Jamaican bobsled team attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

On Sunday, news broke that the team had qualified for the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2002. The two-man sled will be piloted by Winston Watt, a 46-year-old Jamaican-American who also competed in 2002, with Marvin Dixon as the brakeman.

However, Watt revealed that, even after putting his own money up to fly the team to his training session, there was not enough money to send the two to Russia. As a result, he turned to donations, launching a PayPal account to pay for the estimated US$40,000.

The Jamaican bobsled team achieved international fame after qualifying for the 1988 Winter Olympics with a team of four men who had very little experience in the sport. That fame was boosted with the release of Cool Runnings in 1993, a loosely fictionalized account of their trials. The film remains a cult hit, and fans spread word of Watt’s plight.

One of them was Liam Butler, who runs the dogecoin foundation along with the currency’s initial creators Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus. Dogecoin is a crypto-currency, based on a combination of bitcoin, the popular digital money, and “doge,” the Internet meme that superimposes broken English written in Comic Sans onto pictures of shiba inu.

“As someone who grew up in the 90s, Cool Runnings was the ultimate feel-good movie about underdogs ... achieving their dreams,” Butler said.

On Monday in Sydney, where he lives, Butler launched Dogesled, aiming to raise some of the money required to send Watt and Dixon to Sochi.

“We started without a concrete plan in mind,” Butler said. “I sent a few e-mails out ... but that was the extent of it.”

However, within a few hours the fundraiser had collected just over 26 million dogecoins. So many people had been donating that they seemed to raise the price of the currency itself — in 12 hours, the dogecoin to bitcoin exchange rate rose by 50 percent.

At the exchange rate Butler secured, he has US$25,000 ready to send to the team, and the donations continue to flood in.

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