Mr. Olympia – The History Of This Great Contest

History of the Mr. Olympia contest – and what a contest it is! Up 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.  Yet it was never an open-and-shut case. Then one day Larry Scott and Joe Weider were eating at a restaurant. Larry confided that he had won both the Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles. The way he saw it, there were no competitive mountains left to climb.

Birth Of The Mr. Olympia

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


Larry Scott – The First Mr. Olympia!

The first contest was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 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. Of course, Arnold dominated the next six!

1976 saw a smaller bodybuilder, in the person of Franco Columbu, win the title for the first time. In the following three years Frank Zane won the Mr. Olympia. Frank went on to win two more.

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 Mr. Olympia Name No. of Times Won
1965-1966 Larry Scott 2
1967-1969 Sergio Oliva 3
1970-1975, 1980  Arnold Schwarzenegger 7
1976, 1981 Franco Columbu 2
1977-1979 Frank Zane 3
1982 Chris Dickerson 1
1983 Samir Bannout 1
1984-1991 Lee Haney 8-time Mr. Olympia
1992-1997 Dorian Yates 6
1998-2005 Ronnie Coleman 8-time Mr. Olympia
2006, 07, 09, 10 Jay Cutler 4
2008 Dexter Jackson 1
2011-2017 Phil Heath 7
2018 Shawn Roden 1
2019 Brandon Curry 1
2020 Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay   1
2021 TBD – Who Will Win?  

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 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. He 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. He proclaimed that he was returning to competition in pursuit of a seventh title.

Other contestants said the competition was a disaster. A number 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 most of his upper body. Yet his legs lagged behind. Most bodybuilding experts disagree over whether or not he should have won. 

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, since the contest started in 1965, there have only been 16 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. They alter their diets and workouts accordingly. 

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. It was dubbed simply the “Great Competition”. Finally, three top winners were selected from a field of sixty contestants. 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. It has remained the symbol of bodybuilding’s most coveted prize ever since.

The Greatness Continues!

Who’s going to take the Sandow in 2021? Will Big Ramy repeat? Or will Phil Heath make a comeback? What about Brandon Curry or Shawn Roden – or even someone that surprises everybody? The 2021 Mr. Oympia is coming up very soon – tune in and see who wins!



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