A Beautiful Tale by Disney
Now of course we all love Disney movies and quite honestly the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team is a beautiful tale to say the least, but in truth, the movie was what we might call embellished a bit. The events that actually took place were very much different from the movie, and in fact, perhaps wasn’t the compelling story movie goers watched on the silver screen in 1993.
In the movie Cool Runnings, it was portrayed that the team were just some humble, happy-go-lucky chaps that were hanging out and someone asked them to do their country a service and form an Olympic bobsled team.
For that matter, they weren’t even track stars as the movie portrayed. They were members of the Jamaican army, who as it were, were under orders.
The movie portrayed John Candy as the lone person who cheered the team on and encouraged them to form a team, when in fact there were two gentlemen, George Finch and William Maloney. The two were fans of another activity, push cart racing. They thought it would carry over well into bobsledding and got the bright idea for the Jamaicans to form a team for the Winter Olympics.
They attempted to enlist track athletes, however, no one wanted to be a part of it. This is when they turned to the Jamaican army, and the recruiting began.
Training was done in Lake Placid, NY, and the newly formed team was coached by one individual from the US and another from Austria. The two coaches taught the soldiers how to bobsled.
As one of the real team members puts it, he saw bobsledding once in 1987, and in 1988, he was competing in the Olympics.
In the movie, the team was depicted as being outcasts, shunned by the other bobsled teams and, for the most part, being looked at as a downright joke.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The team was actually warmly received by the Olympic community. In fact, the team was extremely popular at the Olympics. So popular, the team was afraid to leave Olympic Village out of fear that they would be mobbed by the legions of fans.
In light of these factual differences, competing was still not easy. The bobsled team was using borrowed equipment, which subsequently did fall apart on the first day of running. The team also suffered from the injury of a team member.
When the team was trapped under the sled, they did not lift it over their heads triumphantly, carrying it to the finish line as seen in the movie. They pushed the bobsled to the end of the track, then lifted it to carry it away.
While the facts and the movie were not the same, most of us come to expect liberties to be taken by the movie studios in order to create a more compelling story. This is especially true when it comes to inspirational stories.
So while it’s true that the movie portraying the story of the Jamaican bobsled team is short on facts, the bottom line is that the team did persevere. They were under a lot of scrutiny, and they did face adversity.
Not only did they accomplish a great feat by going to the winter Olympics to compete in a sport that they don’t normally participate in their native land, but they are continuing to compete in the sport. And that, is a true life inspiration.