Dogecoin helps Jamaican bobsled team in its quest for Sochi

January 21, 2014

From left, Jamaican bobsled team members Wayne Blackwood, Marvin Dixon and coach Wayne Thomas in Park City, Utah. (Nekesa Mumbi Moody/AP)

In a story packed with more Internet buzzwords than a Buzzfeed listicle, the much-beloved Jamaican bobsled team has qualified for the Sochi Olympics — and Dogecoin and crowdfunders will help send them there.

It was announced over the weekend that the team had qualified for the games for the first time in 12 years, but couldn’t afford the $80,000 price tag of outfitting a sled and traveling to Sochi. The Internet quickly rose to the occasion, donating more than $40,000 to an official Indiegogo account and launching parallel campaigns on Crowdtilt and Reddit, where Dogecoin enthusiasts publicized their own cryptocurrency fund. (Dogecoin, you’ll recall, is basically a meme-ier version of Bitcoin.)

As of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the team had raised nearly $200,000 combined on the three platforms — and, perhaps more importantly, secured a promise from the International Olympic Committee that it would cover their travel costs, letting the Jamaican team turn their donations to things like equipment and training.

This is obviously great news for the Jamaican team (and for the cryptocurrency community, which celebrated the fundraiser as “a great opportunity to promote dogecoin on the world stage.”) But it also holds a great deal of promise, at least theoretically, for other athletes who struggle with the monumental cost of becoming an Olympic athlete. After all, there’s a reason — besides pure talent and population size — that the U.S. tends to medal more than, say, India: It costs upwards of $100,000 to train an Olympic athlete over the course of her career, and that’s before the cost of going to the games themselves. Poorer countries are at a distinct disadvantage.

If crowdfunding can level that playing field, it would mark an incredible feat for both the crowdsourcing movement and international sport. Unfortunately, very few teams have a cult Disney movie and built-in theme song to their name. And just like conventional crowdfunding sites, which have been criticized for their failure to “democratize innovation,” athletic crowdfunding seems to favor those who already have funds and followings — the U.S. ski and snowboarding teams both use RallyMe.

So maybe this isn’t exactly a profound win for crowdfunding. But it is a good excuse to revisit “Cool Runnings.”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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