The Winter Olympics have been in full swing for over a week now, and so far we’ve witnessed the joy and euphoria of victors realizing a lifelong dream, the agony of defeat where mere hundredths of a second is the difference between the podium and going home empty handed, and the highly emotional reactions from the athletes as they battle for medals, personal bests, or redemption after past heartbreak. It’s like the world’s best sports movie on steroids and I couldn’t love it more. This year, there’s even the Jamacian bobsled team, back at the Olympics for the first time since 2002, and as I watched their two man team take their second run last night and come in dead last, a run that included the broken helmet visor of driver Winston Watts flapping in the wind, I was reminded of one of my favourite sports movies of all time: Cool Runnings.
Released in 1993, Cool Runnings is based on the story of Jamaica’s first foray into the Winter Olympics at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. Known as the ultimate underdogs, the Jamaican bobsled team became very popular during their time in Calgary, and although the team did not complete the competition after crashing during one of their runs, their story was intriguing enough to inspire a film treatment. Starring the late John Candy as the Jamaican’s coach, and Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, and Leon as the four man bobsled team, Cool Runnings is a fun and comically whimsical sports film that chronicles the challenges the team faced in trying to gain respect as Olympic competitors, and reminds viewers what the true Olympic spirit is all about. While the film’s plot does take many liberties with the actual story, the result is a wonderfully charming and inspirational film that has been a favourite of mine for over 20 years.
Tonight, the Jamaican two man team will compete in their remaining runs, and I for one will be watching and cheering them on. Just like in Calgary, it would appear that history is repeating itself in Sochi, with many reports claiming that the Jamaicans are enjoying rock star status among fellow athletes, spectators, and volunteers in Sochi. These reports just make me smile, because it’s nice to know that even in one of the most competitive sporting environments around, people can still be inspired by and celebrate the sheer determination to simply compete at the Olympic Games. As Cool Runnings says in what is possibly one of my favourite movie scenes ever, “It doesn’t matter if they come in first or fiftieth. Those guys have earned the right to represent their country. They’ve earned the right to march into that stadium and wave their nation’s flag…That’s what the Olympics are about.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.