The 1988 Winter Olympics

Eddie the Eagle might have been the biggest star of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. He was heavier than the other ski jump athletes, he wore glasses that fogged at critical moments, and worked as a full-time plasterer.

The winner of the ski-jump event scored 224 points. The 54th ranked athlete scored 110 points. Eddie came in 55th (and dead last) place with 57.5 points. But the crowd loved him. The worse he did, the more engaging he became. He became a star at home and abroad overnight.

Nearby, Jamaica had entered their first bobsleigh team at the winter olympics since 1948. You’ve seen the movie. The Jamaican team crashed out on the final run and pushed their bobsleigh over the finish line. Like Eddie, they finished dead last. But they were incredibly engaging.

People are always looking for an engaging show. But putting on a show doesn’t change behavior. It doesn’t change people at a deep mental level. It doesn’t lead to long-term impact. It creates visible engagement not valuable engagement.

Eddie filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and the Jamaican Bobsleigh team has struggled for funding ever since.


  1. Nick Emmett says:

    Totally get what you’re saying and agree wholeheartedly - however - Eddie’s story is now being turned in to a movie… what does that do to this situation? Another form of visible engagement for sure, but what about the value? More or less now? A great story is, I guess, a great story. It’s to be seen what kind of engagement people will have as a result.

  2. Richard Millington says:

    Well, I think that makes my ‘showbiz’ metaphor rather less metaphorical…

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