*In less than two days, a crowdfunding site has helped raise more than $25,000 for the Jamaican bobsled team headed to the Sochi Olympics, reports ESPN.
Donations came pouring in to the website Crowdtilt after a collection page was set up following word the two-man team had qualified for the Olympics but needed $80,000 to get to the Games.
The last time Jamaica sent a bobsled team to the Olympics was in 2002. Chris Stokes, general secretary of the Jamaican Bobsled Federation, said the idea that the team wouldn’t go was never the reality.
The team, he said, pays for its way to Sochi while the local organization committee takes care of the athletes once in Russia. He did, however, say that the team still needs $80,000.
Stokes said the team, which trained in Evanston, Wyo., wasn’t quite running on the shoestring budget memorialized in the movie “Cool Runnings,” the film loosely based on the exploits of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, but it surely hasn’t been working with all the essentials either.
“We have not come close to covering our costs,” Stokes told ESPN.com on Monday. “We have many outstanding obligations, and we have to pay three more weeks of training. We’ve had very lonely days when we struggled to make ends meet by borrowing equipment. Our guys haven’t had the proper jackets.”
Funding issues hampered the Jamaicans’ hopes of competing just four years earlier in Vancouver.
Crowdtilt CEO James Beshara said that because the idea behind the funding changed from getting the Jamaicans to the Olympics to covering their costs, the site would allow those who had already donated on the original premise to opt out if they didn’t want to support the team in its new capacity.
As of 5:45 p.m. ET Monday, the site’s Jamaican Bobsled funding page had raised $49,348.
The company says about 70 percent of the contributions have come from U.S.-based credit and debit cards in at least 42 states while around 20 percent of the contributions have come from payments of Jamaican origin.
Lincoln Wheeler, who started the campaign through Crowdtilt, said he was thrilled to have helped the team raise as much as it did in such a short period of time.
“It’s wild to harness the power of the Internet like this,” said Wheeler, a consultant who lives in Washington, D.C. “Obviously the movie had some influence, but I think this also became about the idea that we, as fans, could have an opportunity to influence sports.”
Wheeler was motivated to start something when he noticed that the official Jamaican efforts didn’t have a social media presence. Donating money also became an issue when the team’s official website — which received 95,000 hits Friday and 211,000 page views Saturday — frequently crashed.
Wheeler said he doesn’t think his loyalty to the United States will be challenged when he watches the Olympics.
“The Jamaican bobsled team will be the only non-U.S. team I will be rooting for,” he said.