Winter Olympics USA luge team embraces bitcoin donations

USA Luge welcomes risk both on the Winter Olympics sliding track and in investments as it gathers bitcoin donations.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Luge - Winter Olympics Day 2
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Luge - Winter Olympics Day 2

Chris Mazdzer of the US luge team on his way to a silver medal in luge men's singles during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Xin Li/Getty Images

Team USA athletes are representing their country at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea thanks in part to donors who help fund their training and travel. USA Luge, which made a splash with Chris Mazdzer's silver medal in men's single luge, welcomes donations of the high-tech kind, namely bitcoin.

In December, the USA Luge Foundation launched a bitcoin fundraising campaign, saying "the sport of luge has always been one to reward innovation and technology." Bitcoin investors can donate through the campaign page.

The luge team's push reminds us of that time when dog-themed cryptocurrency dogecoin sponsored a Nascar racer in 2014. You won't see Team USA sporting a Shiba Inu pupper on its gear, though.   

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The bitcoin logo could one day appear on USA Luge gear.

Satoshi Nakamoto

USA Luge is still far from its initial funding goal of 5 BTC, which it hoped to hit by the middle of January. The organization promised to offer luge team hats emblazoned with the bitcoin logo if it reached that level. The team is currently sitting at 0.673 BTC in donations, which works out to around $6,200 (£4,400, AU$7,800). 

Gordy Sheer, director of marketing and sponsorship for USA Luge and a 1998 Olympics silver medalist in the men's double event at Nagano, says the team will still happily offer BTC logo merchandise and add the logo to its training gear if it reaches its cryptocurrency funding goals. 

Beyond hats, the team will add a bitcoin patch to its outerwear for the 2018-19 season if it pulls in 10 BTC. Jumping up to the 100 BTC level would give us the delightful sight of BTC logos on the team's skin suits for the next four years. The only place you wouldn't see the BTC logo is at the Olympics, which restricts that sort of sponsorship. 

The bitcoin push ties in nicely with USA Luge's willingness to test tech, including 3D-printing tools used in the making of its sleds, which can reach ludicrous speeds nearing 90 mph (145 km/h).

While bitcoin's volatility means its value fluctuates, here are some general guidelines for how much BTC it takes to sponsor various luge activities based on current prices:

0.00270 BTC: One run down the track
0.00539 BTC: Buy a pair of luge gloves
0.00809 BTC: Cover a night at the Olympic Training Center for one luger

When asked if bitcoin's capriciousness worries USA Luge, Sheer says, "Not at all. We are obviously an organization comfortable with the notion of risk. We are in for the long term with our BTC investments."

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