It’s September, which means one of the biggest events in the world of fitness is right around the corner – the Mr. Olympia contest. Held every year since the 1960s, the Mr. Olympia is one of, if not the single most popular bodybuilding competitions in the world. Legends like Jay Cutler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, and Phil Health have all become legends of bodybuilding thanks to this contest. Let’s take a look at the man behind the Olympia, and see where it all began.
On November 29, 1920, in Quebec, Canada, a man named Joseph Weider was born. Joe Weider would go on to become one of the most influential names in fitness, and found the Mr. Olympia contest in 1965, but let’s start by looking at his background and life. Born to immigrant parents, and raised in a poor neighborhood, Joe had to work hard for his whole life to earn his successful, and build the Weider empire we all see today. Sadly, Mr. Weider passed away on March 23, 2013, at the age of 92, but his legacy will be remembered by the fitness community forever.
Joe Weider was involved with the fitness world long before the first Mr. Olympia contest. After dropping out of school in seventh grade, to work and support his family, Joe became very interested in lifting weights. At age 17, he published his first magazine, called Your Physique. Later on, Weider Publications would go on to publish and own popular fitness magazines including Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Shape Magazine, Fit Pregnancy, Flex, and many more. These publications have introduced countless people to the world of bodybuilding.
Today, we take for granted the wealth of information around the sport of bodybuilding. There are countless websites, magazines, and blogs to read, but without Joe Weider and his desire to share fitness with the world, we wouldn’t have the knowledge available to us today. Eventually, Joe wanted to move beyond the publishing world, and in 1965, in New York City, he held the first ever Mr. Olympia contest. Since then, the Olympia has continued to grow in popularity, thanks to magazines, bodybuilding fans, and movies like Pumping Iron, which showcased Arnold and Lou Ferrigno as they prepared for the contest.
The Mr. Olympia began as a fitness and figure competition, and today, while it still remains the top contest for competitors, it attracts all sorts of fitness fans, vendors, curious people, and more. As a bodybuilding contest, it continues to grow in popularity year after year. During the second ever competition, in 1966, the overall winner was awarded a $5,000 prize, which was unheard of in bodybuilding. Today, the winner receives $250,000. Clearly, the event has grown a little bit.
Categories have changed over the years, with various weight divisions, and most recently, Mr. Olympia has added men and women’s physique categories, designed to showcase fit, aesthetic bodies, that don’t necessarily have the size of the top heavyweight bodybuilders. There are varying other categories as well, including the 212 pound men’s showdown, and women’s classes including fitness, figure, and bikini Olympia.
Competitors must qualify, which involves competing and winning shows at the highest level, in order to enter the Mr. Olympia. They still have a choice; qualifying does not mean they are atomically entered, but one cannot simply enter the contest – you have to earn your way in, and prove you have what it takes to compete at the highest level. This year’s Olympia, September 2015, will be held from September 17-20, in Las Vegas, Nevada.