Also called bobsledding, a winter sport in which women compete in two-crew events, and men in two- and four-crew teams. The sled is steered down a specially constructed high-sided, steeply banked, as well as bending, track of solid ice; no braking is permitted in competition, and speeds have exceeded 200 kilometres per hour. Originally made of wood, bobsleds have become technologically sophisticated products. Bobsleigh courses have been constructed in the European Alps and in New York State, USA (Lake Placid), most of them initially for an Olympic Games.
The sport originated among English visitors to the Alps in the 1860s, and as a more organized but still informal activity on specifically designed tracks in the 1870s, in St Moritz, Switzerland, where local tourist entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt provided winter sports opportunities for new international tourist markets. It developed distinctly from tobogganing and, after being staged competitively on the Cresta Run in 1998, from the one-man bobsleighing of the Cresta (see tobogganing, skeleton). The world's first separate bobsleigh run was built in 1902 in St Moritz. Its international governing body was formed in France in 1923, inspired by Franz Reichel, a sport journalist for Le Figaro, though the federation covered tobogganing too, and went on to be based in Milan, Italy; men's four-crew featured in the first winter Olympics in 1924, men's two-crew being added in 1932.
Bobsleigh has featured in every winter Olympic Games since, apart from in 1960. Switzerland, Italy, and Germany have been the most successful and high-profile nations in international competition, with Austria, Canada, and the USA also featuring prominently. Two-woman crew events were held at the Olympics from 2002 onwards. The sport achieved widespread publicity when the film Cool Runnings (1993) was made, featuring the far from competitive—and therefore highly appealing—exploits of Jamaica's first-ever bobsleigh Olympians at the 1988 Calgary (Canada) Olympics.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.