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SBD Global/January 21, 2014/Olympics

Jamaican Bobsled Team Gets Necessary Funding, Accepts Invite To Sochi Olympics

Jamaican bobsled pilot Winston Watts and the nation's Olympic Committee said Monday that "they are accepting an invitation to compete" in the Sochi Olympics, according to the AP. It is the first time the Jamaican bobsled team will compete in the Games since '02. Watts said Saturday that the team had qualified, but "was unsure about its ability to participate because of funding." He estimated he needed up to $80,000 "to make the Olympic trip." Much of that concern "went away Monday," when Jamaican Olympic officials said that they and the Sochi Organizing Committee "would cover all travel costs for the team." Watts said he is "still doing additional fundraising for equipment." Teams "typically have several different sets of runners to choose from, depending on ice conditions" (AP, 1/20).

RAISING MONEY
: In London, Alex Horn reported a group of supporters raised more than $25,000 in the Internet currency Dogecoin for the team. Watts 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." Dogecoin Founder Liam Butler launched Dogesled, "aiming to raise some of the money required to send Watts and Dixon to Sochi." Butler: "We started without a concrete plan in mind. I sent a few emails out ... but that was the extent of it." Within a few hours, however, "the fundraiser had collected" more than 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%." At the exchange rate Butler secured, he has $25,000 ready to send to the bobsleigh team, "and the donations continue to flood in" (GUARDIAN, 1/20).

CASH FLOW: In L.A., Michelle Maltais wrote on Monday, some of the team's financial concerns "were allayed." In addition to Dogecoin, donations came in from other crowd-sourcing sites Indiegogo and Crowdtilt. Watts said, "The money's not all covered yet. We're still hoping for help." Later in the day, though, that help arrived. A British company called ZX Recruitment tweeted to the Jamaican Olympic site that it was interested in sponsoring the team and covering $65,000 in expenses. ZX Recruitment GM George Meireles confirmed the offer. Meireles: "Who wouldn't be inspired to do so? I am just surprised nobody else has stepped forward" (L.A. TIMES, 1/20).

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