Icy relations - Japanese outfit says it has lost faith in Jamaica Bobsled
Relations have soured somewhat between the Jamaica Bobsled Federation and the Japanese outfit that gifted them three sleds for their outing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February this year.
Things took a turn for the worse when the Shitamachi Project, a group of Japanese artisans, threatened a lawsuit when the Jamaica team did not use the custom-made sled for the Games as they had expected. The runs were to have been an opportunity for the Project to showcase local Japanese artistry to the world.
According to a BBC report, in February, the Project said it would consider legal action for what it saw as a breach of its July 2016 contract with the Jamaica Bobsled Federation to provide the sleds free of charge, which also included a penalty fee of 68 million yen (approximately J$77m) if the teams did not use the sleds.
The Project had supplied three sleds - one for the male team; another for the female team; and one for female driver Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, to which she had requested modifications. A new one had been designed for her.
Shitamachi reps say Jamaica had been expected to foot the cost for transportation and maintenance, but they were unable to and the Project had also absorbed all transportation costs.
A representative last week told The Gleaner that following the Jamaica Bobsled Federation's decision not to use the sled during the Winter Olympics, the Project faced intense criticism and "loss of confidence" at home in Japan.
It has also had to face down more than 20 sponsors who had invested heavily in the venture in sectors ranging from airline transportation to telecoms.
Pressed on whether the lawsuit was still on, the source could not confirm, but said the Project had "lost faith" and there was little chance of any future working relations with the federation.
"They are reluctant to talk, and, so far, do not have a positive feeling about working with Jamaica for the Summer Olympics, because they think Jamaica will do it again."
Under the arrangement, the Shitamachi Project Network had crafted the sleds at a cost of US$1 million each. Jamaica was given three and was expected to use the sleds "until and during the Games" and in training.
But while there were suggestions that the contract was open to various interpretations, the Project maintains that the contract was clear and Jamaica could have used the sleds, two of which had been delayed because of a strike in the German transportation system.
Jamaica chose to use a Latvian sled and, with good results, continued for the full Games.
But while not dismissing the threat of a lawsuit, president of Jamaica's Bobsled and Skeleton Association, Christopher Stokes, says he has not ruled out continued relations.
"We are not overly concerned about it at this time. We haven't got any papers or notification from them at all, but we did indicate to them that we thought we had strong enough legal grounds," Stokes said.
Pressed on the full details of the contract as the federation understood it, Stokes said he was unable to answer.
" ... [I] cannot respond as the details which you require are covered by a confidentiality clause in the agreement with Shitamachi," he said.