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).
The Sochi Olympics "will be the most expensive in the history of the Olympics," according to Robertson & Masters of CNN. The $50B price tag is still "rising." But just what has it "been spent on?" Former Deputy PM Boris Nemtsov, a "fierce critic" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has questioned where $20-30B has gone in a report titled "Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics: Corruption and Abuse in Sochi." The report also said the absence of "honest competition, cronyism and censorship" have led to "an increase in cost and decrease in the quality of work in preparing for the Games." In '07, Putin advised the IOC that his country would spend $12B on the Games. Nemtsov said, "This is not about sport, this is about triumphing in politics. This is about the strength of power of the Russian president in the world and inside Russia." Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko, however, "remains unruffled by the report's claims." He insists that "all venues and arenas will be ready" for the Opening Ceremony and the arrival of 6,000 athletes. According to the report, the exorbitant rise from $12B to $50B can only be explained by "banal thievery, corruption and complete lack of professionalism of the contractors" (CNN, 1/20).
In the face of concerns about possible attacks by militants during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, U.S. military and intelligence officials "have been studying contingency plans" for evacuating Americans from the Games in case of a crisis, according to Mark Hosenball of REUTERS. But a source familiar with Obama administration debates said that U.S. officials "have concluded there would be major obstacles to mounting a large-scale effort by the military or other U.S. government resources to evacuate Americans from Sochi." The most formidable roadblock is that "Russian authorities have historically been reluctant to allow foreign military forces," especially those of the U.S., on Russian territory. The source said that U.S. contingency planners "have also apparently determined that there are few ways to prepare and potentially position supplies or forces for a possible Olympics rescue because of Sochi's location" (REUTERS, 1/19). The MOSCOW TIMES reported an Islamic extremist group in Dagestan "has claimed responsibility for December's suicide bombings in Volgograd and threatened to deliver a deadly 'present' to visitors to Sochi Winter Olympics that start next month." A video posted on the website of the radical group Vilayat Dagestan on Sunday "showed two men described as the perpetrators of the 'martyrdom operation' terrorist bombings that killed at least 34 people in Volgograd last month" (MOSCOW TIMES, 1/20).
Areas in the Philippines that were affected by Typhoon Yolanda "will not be the only ones that will benefit from the financial assistance" extended by the IOC. Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose Cojuangco said that it "will also look into places that were hit by natural calamities other than Yolanda last November." It "could include Bohol and its neighboring areas that were hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last October" (PHILIPPINE STAR, 1/20). ... Japan Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said that the Japanese government "plans to select the vice chair of the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics from the business community." Shimomura "declined to reveal the name" of the figure he had in mind. Shimomura: "I haven't obtained the person's consent yet." Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda "is among the names being circulated" (KYODO, 1/20).