Enthusiastic fundraisers have raised more than 26m in Dogecoin, a joke alternative currency, which could help propel the Jamaican bobsleigh team to the 2014 Winter Olympics
A group of supporters has raised more than $25,000 in the internet currency Dogecoin to let the Jamaican bobsleigh 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.
But Watt revealed that, even after putting his own money up to fly the team to his training session, there wasn't enough money to send the two to Russia. As a result, he turned to donations, launching a PayPal account to pay for the estimated $40,000.
The Jamaican bobsleigh 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 fictionalised 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 dogs.
"As someone who grew up in the 90's, Cool Runnings was the ultimate feel good movie about underdogs out of their element achieving their dreams," Butler told the Guardian. "When I was about 7 years old, my best friend and I had a billy-cart that his dad built. When we would start our run down his driveway, we would shout out the catchphrase from the movie: 'Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it's bobsled time!'"
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 says. "I sent a few emails out… but that was the extent of it."
Within a few hours, however, the fundraiser had collected just over 26m Dogecoins. So many people had been donating, in fact, that they seemed to raise the price of the currency itself; in 12 hours, the Dogecoin to Bitcoin exchange rate rose by 50%.
"Myself and Jackson Palmer (the creator of Dogecoin) were at a local pub trivia in Sydney when we noticed the value of Dogecoin had more than doubled since we'd last checked so 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. 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."
At the exchange rate Butler secured, he has $25,000 ready to send to the bobsleigh team, and the donations continue to flood in. It looks like the Jamaican bobsleigh team might be going to Sochi.
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image: © Charles LeBlanc