Cool Runnings is a 1993 comedy film directed by Jon Turteltaub. It is loosely based on the Jamaican Bobsled Team at Calgary, Alberta in the 1988 Winter Olympics. It stars Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, and John Candy.
Irving ("Irv") Blitzer (Candy) is an American bobsled
double gold medalist at the 1968 Winter Olympics
, who finished first in two events again in 1972
but was disqualified for cheating and retired in disgrace to Jamaica
, where he leads a destitute life as a bookie. He is approached by top 100m runner Derice Bannock (Robinson), who failed to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics
when another opponent, Junior Bevil (Lewis), tripped at the trials, and pushcart driving champion Sanka Coffie (Doug), who both wish to use his previous experience as a coach in order to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics
as bobsledders. Irv had been good friends with Derice's father, Ben, a former sprinter whom Irv had tried to recruit for the bobsled team years ago.
The first half of the movie centers on Jamaica, efforts to recruit Junior and Yul Brenner (Yoba), who was also tripped during the qualifiers, and training the team. After Irv is convinced to coach the team, the three months of practice begins, initially resulting in embarrassment. However, the four men get used to the sport and make their way to Calgary and the Olympics.
The second half of the movie is the drama of the Olympics, and the fish-out-of-water scenario of the laid-back tropical black Jamaicans in both the white-dominated sport and the cold of Calgary winter. The Jamaicans' first day on the track results in, once more, embarrassment, and a last-place finish. The second day proves better; the Jamaican team finishes with an incredible time of 56.53 seconds which puts them in eighth position. For the first half of the final day's race it looks as though they will break the world bobsled speed record, until tragedy strikes; their sled, due to one of the blades falling off, flips on its side coming out of a turn towards the end of their run, leaving them metres short of the finish line. However, the team lifts their sled up and walks across the finish line to rousing applause from onlookers, including antagonists such as Junior's father (who proudly bears his Jamaican bobsled team T-shirt beneath his jacket), Josef Grull (an East German driver who had ridiculed the Jamaicans constantly) and Kurt Hemphill, a member of the winter sports governing body who had been Irv's coach at the time of his 1972 disqualification. The team, at the end, feels accomplished enough to return in four years to the next winter Olympics.
- U.S. Gross Domestic Takings: $68,856,263
- Other International Takings: $86,000,000
- Gross Worldwide Takings: $154,856,263
Cast and Characters
The bobsledders portrayed in the film are fictional, although the people who conceived the idea of a Jamaican bobsled team were inspired by pushcart racers and tried to recruit top track sprinters. However, they did not find any elite sprinters interested in competing, and ended up having to recruit four sprinters from the Army for the team.
Irving Blitzer is a fictional character; the real team had several trainers, none of whom were connected to any cheating scandal. At the time of the movie's release, the United States had not won a gold medal in Bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics since the four-man event in 1948. The double gold medalist in bobsleigh at the 1968 Winter Olympics was Italy's Eugenio Monti.
A fictional sports governing body, the "International Alliance of Winter Sports" appears in the film (in reality, every winter sport has its own separate governing body). Also, England is listed on the board shown in the tavern in Jamaica, whereas in the Olympic Games English athletes actually compete as members of the Great Britain team.
The bobsled competition in the film consists of three individual runs, whereas in reality the Olympic bobsled competition is two runs a day held over a two-day period.
In the film, Junior of the bobsledders decides to sell his car to raise money to get to Calgary
after being turned down for sponsorship. The other members also hold fund-raisers, and several prospective sponsors laugh at them. In reality, the team got to Calgary on corporate funding.
Tryouts for the 1988 Olympics
In the film, the sprinters raced in the open, in a dirt field. In real life, the tryouts were held in Jamaica's National Stadium.