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Dark Cloud Hanging Over 2015 Olympia
- Updated: September 18, 2015
Olympia Weekend is finally here but has a much different feel to it than it has in the past. Instead of being this gala event that is the Super Bowl of bodybuilding and fitness, there are many questions surrounding a litany of subjects and none of them are favorable for the industry as a whole. Besides the obvious with Kai Greene not competing, here are some glaring issues that will be hovering over The Orleans Arena and Olympia Expo hall all weekend long.
TITLE SPONSORSHIP LAWSUIT
This is one that has not reared its ugly head on the websites of either FLEX or Muscular Development and for good reason. It makes the promoters of the Olympia (which is AMI, the parent company of FLEX magazine) and the IFBB appear shady. And any mud cannot be slung on those sites, right?
As per a report by the Wall Street Journal (a much better source than a bodybuilding company that has to go along with the program ordered from above) on September 1, Ultimate Nutrition – who paid an astronomical $626,800 fee to be the exclusive title sponsor of the entire Olympia event – filed court papers against the promoters for advertising new sponsorship deals being available for companies that “want their brand front and center.”
This is the seventh year that Ultimate has been the top sponsor at the O and it would seem that this is hardly the way to treat one of your golden geese.
Shortly before the suit was filed, Mr. Olympia, LLC announced that Amazon as the “official retail sponsor” of the event. As a matter of fact, the Ultimate Nutrition logo appears at the top of all of the promotional material with “Presents,” and then directly under the Olympia badge, “Brought to you buy” with the Amazon Sports Nutrition logo.
No details were given if this was in fact the crux of the lawsuit or not but it would seem that a company who paid well over a half million dollars to be the main sponsor would not want to share the spotlight.
Lee Thompson, a longtime IFBB judge and NPC chairperson in Texas, has immediately bolted and is forming his own bodybuilding organization called NPC Global (Nspire Physique Championship). There will be both amateur and pro ranks, shared economy with the athletes, transparency regarding the judging and no restrictions as to competing in other organizations.
In a video posted on the organization’s recently launched website, Thompson refers to the complaints about the bodybuilder’s physiques by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kai Greene not competing at the Olympia.
Although there was not a lot of details given, NPC Global has already announced that they will be holding a public press conference on November 8 at Muscle Beach, at which Thompson and “competitors that you know, both pro and amateur” will be in attendance to “announce the entire framework” of the new organization.
The only statement released by the IFBB/NPC was a very brief one: The National Physique Committee of the USA, Inc. and the IFBB have no affiliation with NPC Global.
LEE HANEY REMARKS
There are not too many people more respected in bodybuilding than Lee Haney, who was the original record holder for Sandows with eight until that feat was matched by Ronnie Coleman. But he apparently had been holding back (as many people have) in criticizing the organization that he was an integral part of for so long.
In a 9/17/15 post on his Facebook page, Haney wrote:
As a (sic) 8 time Mr. Olympia, I am troubled and heart broken by what has transpired with Kia (sic) Green not being allowed to enter the Mr. Olympia. Business as usual has dealt another life altering blow to one of professional bodybuildings greatest and respected athletes. The blood and sacrifice of many of us dead and alive within the bodybuilding world cries out for change and compassion. As a fellow bodybuilder, I feel the hard line approach used in negotiating with IFBB professional athletes need (sic) to be examined. What is the cost of honoring a professional athlete with concessions to promote his business ventures when revenue is being generated by the likeness of the athletes. My stand is with each and every body builder that sacrifice his or her body, time, and finances in hope of becoming a professional athlete one day with the end results being worth it. It’s seldom to see change welcomed by those who benefit from things staying the same. In order for the world of professional body building (sic) to continue to grow, there must be room at the table for everyone.
The response to this was much more positive than negative (over 500 ‘Likes,’ 69 ‘Shares’ and numerous comments).
On the night of the Olympia press conference, the IFBB could not have foreseen the specter of one of its greatest champions completely ripping them apart. But this should be something that is not shrugged off easily. Haney has no axe to grind or any apparent reason to sling mud at the IFBB, an organization that has been the subject of more criticism than any professional sports sanctioning body this side of FIFA.
This has been a summer full of negative press for bodybuilding, going all the way back to the ‘press pass for money’ situations with the NPC and IFBB. And regardless of whose side you are on with the Greene scenario, not having the second-best bodybuilder in the world at the most prestigious show is a major letdown. It certainly takes a lot of steam out of what was already being spoken about as a very average Olympia to begin with.
The defending champion Phil Heath is vying for his fifth straight Olympia win and he, himself, has been the subject of harsh criticism for his remarks about Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is a common feeling amongst bodybuilding fans that “The Gift” is easily the most hated champion of all time and Greene is the fan favorite. As a matter of fact, the Brooklyn native’s fan base dwarfs that of Heath’s, judging by his social media numbers and being on mainstream national television (ESPN’s NFL coverage).
A year that began with Schwarzenegger publicly calling out Jim Manion and the judges has gotten worse for the IFBB. This Olympia may already be a bust regardless of how many tickets are sold. Some of these damages are irreparable at this point.