The Mr. Olympia contest is still the pinnacle of the bodybuilding calendar. Previously on this website we’ve looked at the competition’s contest report which spoke of the great Larry Scott, who swept all other challengers aside. Well, thanks to STG Strength and Power we also have video footage of the competition itself.
Looking at the competition play out, a couple of thoughts spring to mind. First that the physiques on show, although incredible muscular, are almost entirely different to the ones now exhibited at the Olympia. In such a short space of time, especially in sporting terms, the acceptable face of the sport has changed irrevocably. While many will debate whether or not this is for the better is a different day’s conversation.
Second that the Olympia, an incredibly brave undertaking by Joe and Ben Weider, was not a guaranteed success. John Fair’s work on the Mr. America competition, which I would highly recommend for all iron game lovers, speaks to the fact that for bodybuilders of the 1940s to 1960s, the most important competition was the Mr. America show. Begun in late 1939, the Mr. America competition was the first official bodybuilding competition of its kind.
Where Bernarr MacFadden’s physical culture show of the early 1900s was in essence the first live physique show to come to America, MacFadden’s overall focus on health distinguished it from later bodybuilding shows. When the Mr. America competition emerged in the late 1930s, it marked the first bodybuilding contest concerned with muscularity.
Critically the early Mr. America competitions also included weightlifting and personality components. This meant that the Mr. America contest was based on your physique, your athleticism and also, rather remarkably, your personality. For those skeptical individuals, this was because the Mr. America competition was modeled on the Ms. America contest. Those who won were thus taken to be the best representatives of America itself.
How did the Weiders dislodge the Mr. America contest and position the Mr. Olympia competition as THE event in bodybuilding? Simple, they focused on the physique and they very quickly focused on stars. Unlike the Mr. America contest, where, believe it or not, you could lose based on your personality, the Mr. Olympia was solely concerned with your physique. This made the contest a far more popular endeavor and, with the inclusion of individuals like Sergio Oliva, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others, meant that the best bodies reigned supreme. From humble beginnings in 1965, the Olympia drew more and more athletes disillusioned with the Mr. America show.
Finally when looking at this footage, you get a sense of just how wonderful Larry Scott was. For those of a certain age, Scott was the epitome of health and strength. A sickly kid who built his physique through smart training and hard work, Scott was a regular rags to riches story. Scott won the first two Mr. Olympia titles before outright retiring from the sport to pastures new.
It all began then with Scott, the Weiders and a dream.
As always, happy lifting!