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History of The Mr. Olympia ContestLeave a Reply

Until 1965, it was hard for any bodybuilder to maintain that he was the best in his sport. The champions of the Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe contests each made a claim for their own superiority, but it was never an open-and-shut case. Then one day Larry Scott and Joe Weider were eating at a restaurant, and Larry confided that he had won the Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles, and the way he saw it, there were no competitive mountains left to climb.

Joe reviewed the existing bodybuilding titles, and felt that none of them was quite in line the mental picture he had of where the sport was headed. Joe came up with the ultimate contest, the ultimate prize for the ultimate body, the Mr. Olympia, which began in 1965. Larry Scott won that first Mr. Olympia contest on that hot September night, and he won again in 1966.


The first contest was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and when the show ended and Larry Scott ventured outside, the crowd went crazy.

The 1967 Mr. Olympia heralded a new age in bodybuilding competition. Sergio Oliva nicknamed "The Myth" won the next 3 Mr. Olympia competitions. Arnold Schwarzenegger dethroned Oliva in 1970 after being the first runner-up the year before. 1976 saw a smaller bodybuilder, in the person of Franco Columbu; win the title for the first time. In the following three years the highly experienced Frank Zane dominated Mr. Olympia.

The Mr. Olympia title is now the most coveted in bodybuilding. Many great champions have come and gone in the history of the contest. The table below shows the winners of the title from its inception in 1965 until now:

Years Won


No. of Times Won


Larry Scott



Sergio Oliva


1970-1975, 1980

Arnold Schwarzenegger


1976, 1981

Franco Columbu



Frank Zane



Chris Dickerson



Samir Bannout



Lee Haney



Dorian Yates



Ronnie Coleman


Winning Mr. Olympia is regarded as the utmost honor in the professional bodybuilding field. The record number of wins is eight, held by Lee Haney (1984-1991), and Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005).

The contest is strictly pro, of course, and your ticket to even competing is winning or placing really well in selected, high-level competitions. If you haven't established yourself to be first-rate at least once before, you simply have no business onstage. This guarantees a lineup of totally stupendous athletes from around the world.

The 2005 Olympia weekend was held October 13-16, hosted by the City of Las Vegas, at the Orleans Hotel and at the Orleans Arena. Some of the events were also held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The program started with a press conference, a chance to meet all of the competitors of all four events, and a chance to ask your favorite bodybuilder or fitness competitor questions. It ended with an Olympia Seminar on the Sunday morning after the big show, where the competitors recounted their feelings and experiences of the weekend.

The Controversial Sydney Show

By far the most controversial contest in the event's history was the one staged in 1980 in Sydney, Australia. The conflict centered on the participation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had announced his retirement from competition in 1975 after winning six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. Ostensibly in Sydney to do commentary for CBS TV, Arnold astounded the bodybuilding world on the eve of the contest by proclaiming that he was returning to competition in pursuit of a seventh title.

Other contestants said the competition was a disaster. A number of of the judges had business ties to Schwarzenegger. His good friend Paul Graham promoted the affair. Onstage, it became obvious that Schwarzenegger had trained hard enough to reclaim his upper body, but his legs lagged far behind. Most bodybuilding experts agree that he should not have won.

In 2003 the then Governor Elect Schwarzenegger showed he still has a fondness for bodybuilding, popping in without warning at the Mr. Olympia contest to applaud its winner. Schwarzenegger drew cheers and chants of "Arnold" and "Governator" from the crowd.

"Finally I feel at home again," he reportedly told the estimated 6000 spectators. "This is a terrific sport and if it wouldn't have been for bodybuilding I wouldn't have any of this."

Is the Contest Fixed?

There will always be speculation that a contest has been fixed in a subjective sport like bodybuilding, particularly if there is an unpopular result. Thirteen judges have to be in cahoots and work together to control the result in order for an Olympia contest to be rigged.

Still, in the forty years since the contest started, there have only been ten winners. When somebody wins, they usually continue to be Mr. Olympia until they retire. This could be because the sport is subject to fashions and trends. Everyone tries to emulate the winner (at the moment Ronnie Coleman), and they alter their diets and workouts accordingly. Ronnie's physique is now considered ideal, and as long as he is on, he cannot effectively lose.

The Mr. Olympia Trophy

On September 14, 1901, something amazing occurred in the history of bodybuilding. The famous Anglo-German physical culture entrepreneur Eugen Sandow staged the first major physique competition the world had ever seen, dubbed simply the "Great Competition," that evening. Finally, three top winners were selected from a field of sixty contestants, and each of the lucky victors came forward to accept an extraordinary prize, a beautifully sculpted statuette of Sandow himself. This trophy was resurrected at the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest, and it has remained the symbol of bodybuilding's most coveted prize ever since.

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