Virgin Media Builds Boats for Bolt

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VirginMedia at LondonEye

Virgin Media celebrates Usain Bolt’s 9.58 second world record with a 9:58pm spectacle on London’s River Thames-- inmcluding a 100m-long, floating flat screen to showcase Bolt’s world-beating 100m time.

Kerris Bright, CMO at Virgin Media says: “Virgin Media has been at the forefront of bringing faster broadband speeds to Britain for the past ten years. By bringing our ambassador, Usain Bolt, to the centre of London we wanted to help celebrate a summer of sport, mark what is going to be a landmark year for Usain and demonstrate what it’s like to ‘be the fastest’.”

Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 broadband offers the UK’s fastest widely available broadband (download speeds of up to 200Mbps) so their association with the world’s fastest man makes perfect sense. They are expanding this through a £3bn programme, Project Lightning, which will reach 17 million UK premises by the end of 2019.

After a Grade 1 tear in his hamstring, Usain Bolt hopes to show fitness at the London Anniversary Games on July 22 to earn selection for the Olympic Games in Rio. To mark exactly one month until he arrived in Rio de Janeiro to defend his world record title, Virgin Media created an ambitious installation bringing symbolizing Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt to the River Thames.

Virgin Media Boat Screen

In a celebration of Bolt’s 9.58 second 100m world record, at 9.58pm the river in front of the London Eye was transformed into a 100m-long video screen, while the Eye itself became a giant stopwatch counting down Bolt’s time. Viewers within the London Eye were able to witness Bolt’s record-breaking speed, thanks to a 100m-long, floating screen stationed on the river beneath.

The screen itself is the longest of its kind ever constructed, comprising 108 floating pontoon decks topped by 600m2 of horizontal LED screen. It was built at King George V Dock in Newham, taking more than 1000 man hours to build and four hours to sail to Victoria Embankment.

The 3-minute film centres on the concept of speed and the fastest man of all time, Usain Bolt, ahead of a pivotal season in Bolt’s career. Speed unlocks the difference that Virgin Media provides, and for Bolt, speed defines him. It is voiced over by fellow sprinter, Michael Johnson, who made a documentary with Usain Bolt in 2010.

The film lifts the lid on the real Bolt. It shows the ‘overwhelming rush of hurt’ he describes when talking about his grueling training schedule, the impact his achievements have had on his country and adoring fans, his perceived “superhero” status, and the Jamaican dancehall culture he is still a part of. The film even provides a real-time dramatisation of the historic 9.58 second record breaking run, mimicking the distance and speed he ran it at, across Jamaican locations he grew up at as a boy.

As well as showcasing the six-time champion’s world-beating run, the screen showcased never-seen-before footage of Bolt shot by Virgin Media in his native Jamaica earlier this year before the athlete went into lockdown on his training. The content brings to life the feeling of speed and how Bolt’s career has been shaped by the Caribbean influences which surrounded him growing up. 

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