The International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) was formed in 1946 by Ben Weider and Joe Weider. Now the IFBB has 173 National Federations worldwide. The IFBB is recognized by over 90 National Olympic Committees.
WHY BODYBUILDING WAS NOT OLYMPIC SPORT?
PROVISIONAL OLYMPIC RECOGNITION:
At the onset of a past Winter Olympics (Nagano Japan, 1998), that a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted provisional recognition to the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), opening the way for bodybuilding to become an Olympic sport. That recognition was the culmination of twenty years and many millions of dollars of lobbying efforts by IFBB co-founder Ben Weider. With the recognition in hand, the plan was to present bodybuilding as a demonstration sport at either the 2000 Sydney or 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. This was the next step for bodybuilding to become a full-fledged Olympic sport, but alas, it was not to be. On September 19, 2001, the IOC withdrew recognition, ending Ben Weider’s dream of Olympic acceptance of the sport he loved, and to which he dedicated his life.
BODYBUILDERS WORK HARDER:
That was the closest bodybuilding has come, and may ever come to the Olympics. There is no question that bodybuilders work harder than most other athletes. Moreover, to succeed at bodybuilding requires an iron discipline, focus, and dedication that is second to no other sport. When it comes to competition, however, bodybuilders are judged solely on appearance, not on the amount of work they had to do to get that appearance, and therein lies the rub. Every other sport requires competitors to exhibit a skill set related to movement. Speed, power, endurance, co-ordination, technique, judgement, accuracy, quality and difficulty of movement. Bodybuilding competition has none of this.
SUBJECTIVE JUDGING IN BODYBUILDING
There are a couple of other factors endemic to bodybuilding that does not sit well with the IOC. For one, any time you are judging on appearance alone, there is always going to be a strong subjectivity factor. Followers of bodybuilding know about the subjectivity of the judging process all too well, as it has been amply demonstrated at contest after contest. The IFBB has made huge strides in codifying the judging process, and mitigating subjectivity, yet it persists at a level higher than most other sports. IOC officials cringe at the thought of handing out medals based on unmeasurables, such as opinions. Critics argue that there are many Olympic sports with a subjective element, and this is certainly true with disciplines such as rythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and ice dancing among others. Competitors, however, still have to demonstrate considerable movement skills, and difficulty of motions can be relatively easily gauged.
RAMPANT DRUG USE IN BODYBUILDING:
The other problem is that bodybuilding has a bad reputation for rampant drug use. Many believe that you can’t get the super-freaky, cartoon-like physical appearance without it, and there may be some credence to that belief. Just visit a top level natural bodybuilding competition. Those guys don’t look anything like the top IFBB Pros.
Cynics may claim that performance enhancement is a fact of life in sport, from the lowest level amateur and weekend warriors, to the highest level professional athletes and international competitors. While this may be true, bodybuilding stands apart in that chemical enhancement is ubiquitous, comparatively overt and considered as sine qua non for excelling at the sport. At a time when the IOC is redoubling its efforts to clean things up, how could it sanction a sport where performance enhancement appears as the accepted norm? It would be virtually impossible to properly police bodybuilding for drug use, and turning a blind eye to this aspect of the sport is out of the question. If the IOC did it for bodybuilding, then it would have to do it for every other sport.
IOC and OPC ARGUMENT:
Bodybuilding is not already an Olympic Sport largely due to the stubbornness of the IOC and OPC (Olympic Planning Committee). In the 1970s, the two groups argued several reasons why Bodybuilding wasn’t an applicable choice as an Olympic sport. Three main points were raised.
The IOC and OPC claimed that simply, bodybuilding is not a sport and therefore has no place in the Olympic Games. Who decides what a sport is in the first place?
ACCORDING TO SOCIOLOGY OF SPORT, A SPORT MUST FULFILL ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Activity becomes less subject to individual prerogative, with spontaneity severely diminished.
- Formal rules and structural role and position relationships and responsibilities within the activity assume predominance.
- Separation from the rigors and pressures of daily life become less prevalent.
- Individual liability and responsibility for the quality and character of his behavior during the course of the activity is heightened.
- The relevance of the outcome of the activity and the individual’s role in it extends to the groups and collectivities that do not participate directly in the act.
- Goals become diverse, complex, and more related to values emanating from outside of the context of the activity.
- The activity consumes a greater proportion of the individual’s time and attention due to the need for preparation and the degree of seriousness involved in the act.
- Competitive Bodybuilding meets all of these pre-reqs. Bodybuilding passes every single one and therefore should be considered a sport. There are 35 other sports in the Olympics, why exclude this one?
FUTURE WITH IOC:
None of the reservations the IOC has about bodybuilding are likely to be rectified, because most of them go right to the very heart of the sport. Nobody knows what the future will bring, and you should never say never, but for the foreseeable future, it seems that bodybuilding will remain excluded from the Olympic pantheon.
In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did not happen. Olympic recognition for bodybuilding remains controversial since many argue that bodybuilding is not a sport.