Mr Olympia 2003 report, by Ralph Morazzino.
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The Olympia is held every year in the Mandalay Bay Theatre in Las Vegas. This is part of the Mandalay Bay hotel which is linked to the Luxor and Excalibur by a walkway. If you have the money, you can stay at either and walk to the show. Otherwise, you have a bit of a walk as the hotels on the strip are massive.
This was my first Olympia and without a doubt it had the most massive bodybuilders on this planet, both the Mr and the Miss O. There have been 39 past Mr Olympia competitions but fewer winners as many people have won it more than once, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the day of the show and the day before there is a big expo with all the supplements companies showing their gear, sponsored athletes and girls. Again if I were to be honest, I would say the Arnold Classic expo was much bigger and much more packed, but this expo did not disappoint.
I met some very interesting people at the Expo. Literally everyone from the bodybuilding world is there: Frank Sepe, Roland Kickinger, Lee Priest, Coleman, Cutler... By far the friendliest guy I met was King Kamali. He really came across as a genuinely nice guy.
The Miss Olympia, Fitness and Figure Olympias were held a day before the Mr O. For such a big and hyped-up show, the theatre at the Miss O was not filled or even close. Considering the fact that the majority of the people up front are relatives, promoters, reporters etc, I would say the attendance was nothing like how one would envisage the Miss O. Nevertheless the level of competitors was unbelievable. Out of all the shows that I have been to, I would say this was the hardest to judge as most of the competitors looked very good.
I have to point out a few things that can ruin your trip, so beware:
The Miss Olympia lightweights category was won by Juliette Bergman. She made her come back last year and at over 40 years of age looked unbelievable. The Heavyweights was won by Lenda Murray; she also won the overalls amongst some disappointing cries from the crowd who seemed to think that Iris should have been the winner (especially when it came to calves).
The prize money for the Mr Olympia was $1000 in 1965. This year it was $400,000 and an $80,000 car. This unfortunately was not the case for the women as their prize money has gone down over the years. Lack of interest has been said to be the blame. To be absolutely honest (and I was there!) the crowd for the men's was only marginally more than the crowd for the women's, so you can make your own conclusions.
Joe Weider made an appearance along with his brother Ben. Joe was talking about the great sport of bodybuilding and how intelligent bodybuilders such as Arnold are. He also talked about the US being such a great country and that they had reserved 1000 seats at the Mr O for the military. Ben Weider made a touching speech about the Olympia, bodybuilding and his brother saying how Joe was his mentor and best friend.
Arnold made an appearance which made the crowd go crazy. He made a good speech about bodybuilding and handed out individual medals to the competitors. He really looks the part of a governor now. I say this because I saw him both in February and now and he just "looks" so much more powerful and charismatic.
Simon Robinson (you may remember him from the UK, he is the bodybuilder with one leg) got a special Olympia medal; he guest posed and looked in very good shape.
Special commendations were given to Lee Haney (Distinguished Medal) and Franco Columbo (Pioneer of Industry Award). This part was hilarious as Franco's English is still not that good. So As he was talking, Arnold sneaked up behind him and started doing mime, pretending like Franco's English was so bad that Arnold had to make the crowd understand what he was saying. This really showed Arnie's great sense of humour and demonstrated their close friendship.
The big question before the show was whether it was going to be Cutler or Coleman. By the crowd's reaction, they expected Gunter to walk away with the crown too. He was a very gracious loser (not that anybody loses really). Have a look at the photos and judge for yourself.
The thing that really annoyed me about this show more than any other was the routines of the competitors. I would say 90% of them did some kind of robotic-based routine. I mean, come on guys, get some sort of originality going. I recall only Troy Alves doing something different and Coleman and Cutler did a variation.
The top prize went to Ronnie Coleman, who won the car and $110,000. Cutler got $75,000, Dexter Jackson $50,000. The prizes are not bad but considering the fact that food, supplements and gear for 1 year probably costs more than this, it is not really that much money. The big guys really make their money from sponsorship. Of course most of these "kind" sponsors drain the blood out of their sponsored athletes with appearances, demands and busy photo schedules. To be a competitive bodybuilder indeed is not easy.
If you want to attend the next Olympia I strongly encourage you to do so. This is where you see the big guys competing against each other for the ultimate Mr Olympia title.