Bolt on a boat: Speed superstar runs on the Thames

6th July 2016

  • Virgin Media celebrates Usain Bolt’s 9.58 second world record with 9:58pm spectacular installation on London’s River Thames   
  • 100m-long, floating flatscreen showcases Bolt’s world-beating 100m time
  • Event marks exactly one month until Bolt’s arrival in Rio de Janeiro

To mark exactly one month until he arrives in Rio de Janeiro to defend his world record title, Virgin Media has created an ambitious installation bringing Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt to the River Thames. The event takes place in the run up to Bolt competing in London later this month and is the first stride out of the starting blocks for an eight-week marketing campaign featuring the world’s fastest man.

In a celebration of Bolt’s 9.58 second 100m world record, at 9.58pm yesterday the river in front of the Coca-Cola 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 has been built over the past week at King George V Dock in Newham, taking more than 1,000 man hours to build and four hours to sail to Victoria Embankment.

The three 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 gruelling 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 the athlete 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. Virgin Media’s latest TV advertisement, which draws on the same content, will air this evening (Wednesday 6 July), during the ad break in the Portugal vs Wales Euro 2016 semi-final on ITV1 at around 9pm. 

Kerris Bright, CMO at Virgin Media said: “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 new ‘9.58’ advertisement can be viewed on the official YouTube channel from this evening:

Join in the conversation with #BeTheFastest on Twitter, and see an extra special Usain Bolt emoji.

Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 broadband offers the fastest widely available broadband – with download speeds of up to 200Mbps. This is more than two and a half times faster than the top widely available speeds from BT, TalkTalk and Sky meaning that a whole household can stream movies, music and more all at the same time.

Notes to editors

*The Coca-Cola London Eye is operated by the London Eye Company Limited, a Merlin Entertainments Group Company.

About Virgin Media

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.

The company’s dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds to homes and businesses. We’re expanding this through our £3bn Project Lightning programme, which will reach 17 million premises by the end of 2019.

Our interactive TV service brings live programmes, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games in a set-top box, as well as on-the-go for tablets and smartphones.

We launched the world’s first virtual mobile network, offering fantastic value and services. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business, we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable company, with operations in more than 30 countries.

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