12/02/2018 11:35 SAST | Updated 12/02/2018 12:02 SAST

Real 'Cool Runnings' Hero Enjoying Olympics in PyeongChang

Dudley Stokes, one of the Jamaican bobsleigh athletes that inspired the film "Cool Runnings", is in PyeongChang right now – but the film is largely fiction.


"Cool Runnings", made in 1993 by director John Turtutaub, was a comedy loosely based on the adventures of the Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada, despite Jamaica's complete lack of natural bobsleigh terrain, or snow.

It was popular on the Korean video market at the time, and the catchphrase chant: "Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up! It's bobsled time! Cool runnings!/ Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! It's time to ride the bobsleigh! Cool runnings!" remains popular, along with the theme song, "I Can See Clearly Now".


Fans attending the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, have been surprised to learn that one of the real-life Olympic athletes who inspired "Cool Runnings" is actually in town to enjoy the Games.

Will McIntyre via Getty Images

According to Yonhap News, Dudley Stokes is currently the boss of the Jamaican bobsleigh team. Stokes, 56, was the first Jamaican army officer to ride the bobsleigh in the mid 1980s, and he competed at the 1988 Olympics with his brother, Chris Stokes.

What most fans didn't know, was that he had no choice in the matter. "I was forced to follow orders," he has revealed, "because I was a soldier." He also never used the famous chant in the film, and says that in fact "a lot of the movie was fictional".

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1988년 캘거리 동계올림픽 출전 당시 기자회견을 가진 더들리 스트로크

In 2014, in a Reddit interview, Stokes said: "'Cool Runnings' is Disney's movie. There is very little that really happened in real life." For example: "the athletes in the film appear to be completely outcasts, but these athletes actually competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul".

According to the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation, bobsleigh was introduced to Jamaica by two Americans living there – after they witnessed cart-racing in Jamaica and realised it was very similar to a bobsleigh. They pitched the idea to Jamaica's Olympic Association, but most Jamaican athletes weren't keen to learn bobsleigh. That's when the army stepped in, and Dudley Stokes was ordered to do his bit for his country.

GEORGES GOBET via Getty Images

The athletes in the movie train in really tough conditions, but in reality the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team were sent to Lake Placid in the U.S. state of New York, as well as Austria, to be trained by top U.S. and Austrian coaches.

Unlike the final scene of the movie, in which the athletes run to the finish line with a sled, at the real Olympics the Jamaican athletes ended up trapped under their broken sled; stadium staff took it to the finish line.