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Another Rewarding Olympia Weekend

7312-pubA couple of weeks ago I was at the Mr. Olympia competition, the 50th rendition of that iconic event. What started out in the minds of Betty and  Joe Weider as something that would give Larry Scott another shot at competing has evolved into a nonstop weekend immersion in everything related to bodybuilding. From the original men’s contest it has added women’s bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini plus the men’s 212-and-under event and men’s and women’s physique. In addition, a hugely successful expo has grown up around it.

The show has brought many memorable moments over the years. I saw my first Mr. Olympia at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1966, when Larry Scott won and retired, and also the 1969 event, when Sergio beat Arnold. Fast-forward to 2014, and I witnessed the fourth triumph of Phil Heath.

The weekend is like a reunion for me, and the people make it special. I saw many whom I’ve known for 40-plus years, like Arnold and Franco, and for 30-plus years, like Lee Labrada, Samir Bannout, Lee Haney and Mike Katz, to name but a few. Other familiar industry people I enjoyed seeing ranged from Betty Weider, whom I’ve also known for many years, to the producer of the event, Robin Chang, who did his usual seamless job in creating and coordinating the weekend.

The contests are fun and exciting, but the things I remember best are the conversations with friends, the camaraderie of a lifetime of shared moments—like Clark and Patty Sanchez, longtime NPC/IFBB judges, giving me some priceless snapshots they found from the “old days,” a.k.a. the 1980s, and doing an interview for Wayne Gallasch, who has spent 40-plus years recording on film and video every significant bodybuilder and event worldwide. We have one man to thank for preserving our cinematic history, and Wayne is that man. I always enjoy speaking with him because the passion for bodybuilding is part of everything he does, a fanatic in the best sense of the word.

I first met Jim Manion in the ’70s at his Mr. Pittsburgh show, which he still promotes. I was there because Arnold was the guest poser. I mention that because one of the highlights for me of this weekend filled with many was seeing Jim receive the first Joe Weider Icon Award for his lifelong dedication to and promotion of the sport of bodybuilding. I was there when the NPC was created out of the collapse of the AAU, and I have watched Jim lead it to dominance in amateur bodybuilding in the USA. He has also grown the IFBB Professional League tirelessly.  I was one of many who stood, applauding his warm, very personal acceptance speech as he received this inaugural award. Congratulations!

Our coverage of the ’14 IFBB Mr. Olympia begins on page 118. IM


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