Jamaican bobsledders get financial push from oilsands firm

The owner of a northern Alberta oilsands company is getting in the Olympic spirit by sponsoring the Jamaican bobsleigh team.

'Cool Running' movie leads to long-term deal with Alberta company

Alberta businessman and Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation chief Vern Janvier poses with members of the Jamaican bobsled team in Wyoming. (Courtesy of Vern Janvier)

The owner of a northern Alberta oilsands company is getting in the Olympic spirit by sponsoring the Jamaican bobsleigh team.

"When I first saw the (1993) movie Cool Runnings, ... I said you know these guys are really working hard and if I ever had an opportunity to buy them a sled I would," said Vern Janvier, owner of CP Services and chief of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation south of Fort McMurray. 

That opportunity came about two weeks ago, he said. 

"The day Jamaica qualified for the Olympics, they put an ad out in the media that they were broke and looking for sponsors," he said. 

Janvier and a friend found the team's contact information on the internet and sent an email. 

In the meantime electronics-giant Samsung; dogecoin, a virtual currency community; and social media fundraising website Crowdtilt also got in touch, raising enough money for the team to go to the Sochi Olympics.

When Janvier heard back from the team, he was told the team is financially set for now, but could use a long-term sponsor.

He jumped at the chance.

"It's not every day you get to be involved with an Olympic team and be able to sponsor them and promote them and also promote myself in the matter at the same time."

CP Services has signed a four-year deal with the team worth around $35,000 per year. Janvier is also looking at providing a new sled, which could run a cool $100,000.    

A few days ago Janvier flew down to Wyoming to meet the team.

He spent two days with them.

"They're very strong athletic-wise and team oriented ... happy go lucky," he said. "It was an honour to be with them."    

Sponsoring sports is not new to him, Janvier said.

"We sponsor a lot of things. I really don't hang on to my money as I should. I sponsor a lot of hockey ... a lot of sled racing, mud racing. I try to get young people to do something else with their lives rather than hanging around and playing ... PlayStation."

Janvier's company logo is now on the team's tracksuits although athletes are only allowed to wear those around the village, due to Olympic sponsorship rights.

While Janvier is not heading to Sochi to watch the team, he'll be looking out for them on CBC TV.