The Olympics on wheels

As the Olympics come to a close today, one travelling bus can be credited with forever imprinting its spirit upon the minds of both young and old people across Punjab and Haryana. The Olympics YouTube Bus, which screened matches live in a bid to inspire and help connect India’s non-cricket sportspersons with her often disinterested audience for the duration of London 2012, concludes its journey across the two states today.

A gizmo-dome of sorts, the bus is fitted with nine computer screens which can be used to watch the Olympics channel live. Nikhil Rungta, Country Head of Marketing for Google India, says, “Users can also enjoy the experience on smartphones which are available on the bus. The bus also has elements which provide the history of India’s top athletes and their performance at the Olympics.” Stacked with a powerful projector which it employs at night, the bus itself functions as an enormous canvas on which it plays videos of the Olympics to attract the attention of idle pedestrians. But more than the technology, what truly resonates is the content displayed on these screens.

There are videos and montages of Indian athletes that highlight their struggles and passion to make their country proud. In the truest sense, this is probably the strongest legacy of the YouTube Bus as it inspires the thousands of people that climb on board and galvanises a strong sense of patriotism, otherwise often missing for sports beyond cricket. Rungta explains, “When we created the videos of ‘Know Your Stars’, and ‘Know Your Sports’, what really moved us were their stories — most of them come from small villages without having access to proper training facilities. Yet they had the passion and fire to compete at a global stage and make our country proud.”

The roadmap of the YouTube Bus has been one of its most interesting aspects. Instead of approaching metropolitans, the bus, which took off on June 26 from Google India’s headquarters in Gurgaon, travelled through Sonipat, Bhiwani, Hissar, Kurukshetra and Dera Basi in Haryana before taking off for Patiala, Faridkot and Jalandhar in Punjab. Rungta says, “We would have loved to take the bus to as many places as possible but since the Games are on only till August 12, we could do only do two states. We chose Punjab and Haryana, as a lot of players representing India this time hail from them.”

Sushil Makhija, a Google employee on board the YouTube Bus, reveals the buzz the bus generated. “We needed to get legal permits — we were that surprised by the turnout. People would visit the bus and then go home and bring their family members for a second showing. Some were even moved to tears when they saw the stories of the athletes.”

It comes as little surprise that YouTube’s endeavour at reaching out to the Indian population is receiving the support of Olympians as well. Former World Number One and Olympian, shooter Anjali Bhagwat, says, “The Internet is a powerful and democratic medium, and this initiative will go a long-way in creating awareness and appreciation for our athletes. We have the ability to compete at any platform anywhere in the world — but we need support and encouragement, just like some of the other popular sports in India get.”

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