The Olympics: A Masterclass in Storytelling

This past weekend, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games kicked off in Rio. For the next two weeks, we will not only be treated to world class athletic competition, but we will receive a masterclass in storytelling.

Over the last couple of years, the athletes are not the only ones who have been preparing to “go for the gold.” They have been followed around by journalists and film crews capturing key moments that will make their medal-winning performances even more satisfying.

Sure, the basketball and golf teams are packed with recognizable pros. But isn’t it amazing that a 2-minute feature on a teenager waking up at 4 in the morning to train before school can suddenly make them your favorite athlete?

The commercials seem to have an extra power over these two weeks, as personal stories, nationalism, and branding are all tightly wound.

And, of course, the events themselves can take your breath away. USA hockey defeating the Russians during the Cold War (Winter Olympics, I know, but how do I not include that?!). Kerri Strug sticking one final vault on a bum ankle. Michael Phelps winning by a fingernail.

Over these next two weeks, as you experience the 2016 Rio Olympics, pay attention to what grabs you, what moves you, what inspires you — and think about why.

  • What emotions are evoked?
  • What themes are present?
  • What imagery, colors, or symbols are shown?
  • How was music or other sounds involved?
  • What basic building blocks of story (character, conflict, etc.) are used and in what order?
  • Note how much or how little detail is needed to communicate the story.

We have an incredible opportunity over the next two weeks, not just to cheer on our favorite countries and athletes, but to observe and learn from exceptional storytelling. Take advantage of it!

Was there a storyline, feature, commercial, or other aspect of the 2016 Olympic Games that have really inspired you? Share them in the comments below!

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