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The “People’s Champ” At the Olympia: Is This Good or Bad?

by Matt Weik

This year the Mr. Olympia contest will for the very first time crown a “People’s Champ” as well as the actual Mr. Olympia winner. I have my own feelings on this but I’m going to play devil’s advocate for both sides of the fence and allow you to see both points of view and decide for yourself if you think this is good or bad.

The Good

As a bodybuilding fan (which if you’re reading this I’m assuming you are as well), I would love to have some sort of participation with an event. And the Mr. Olympia contest just so happens to be the Super Bowl of our industry so what better stage to unveil it? With that being said, at this early stage of the game, we aren’t sure how people will be able to voice their opinion. There are talks about only allowing the people at the show to vote for the People’s Champ, but it’s unknown if people who view the live broadcast by streaming it online will also have a say (fingers crossed since I can’t make it this year).

I’m all for spectator interaction. You see it at all other sporting events (not specifically voting), so it just makes sense to try and bring it into our industry. Who wouldn’t want to vote and support their favorite bodybuilder or vote for who they think is going to win the show? It would totally be up to the bodybuilding fans – which I think is really cool.

It’s also incorporating an “American Idol” feel to it where “the people have chosen” by voting and someone is crowned. Having this as part of the Olympia will help recognize a competitor that clearly means something to the fans. After all, this could be an example of where someone outside of the top five could win the People’s Champ award. Or, maybe the fans saw the physiques differently and they actually chose the competitor who placed 2nd?

From a competitor’s standpoint, who wouldn’t want to have that title and potentially win some prize money (assuming they are going to toss some money out there like they did the added awards at an event like the Arnold Classic)? I don’t know anyone on that stage who would turn down any amount of money they could potentially win.

Any way you shake it, this is a pretty cool interactive piece that was never done in our sport. I think the fans will truly enjoy the experience, regardless if it’s only open to those who purchased tickets and are in the venue seats or if it’s opened up to anyone watching and has access to the internet or text messaging (however they decide to “open the polls”).

The Bad

Now, let’s flip the script and see another point of view. I see a lot of things potentially concerning about having a People’s Champ and I recently watched a “Live With” episode where Dave Palumbo interviewed Dan Solomon and it was as if Dan was taking the words right out of my mouth. I reached out to Dan and mentioned that our opinion of this so-called People’s Champ was aligned and we were curious how this would all pan out. So, what could be bad about this new fan participation? Isn’t fan participation a good thing like I initially mentioned above. Eh, the answer I’m going to give is yes and no.

There’s nothing wrong with the fan participation piece as I feel only good can come from that. BUT, there can truly only be one and only one Olympia winner. You can’t have two people leaving thinking they “won something” at the show. How odd would it be to have an Olympia winner and the People’s Champ be two different competitors? Let’s use the example of Phil winning #8 this year but someone like Ramy or Cedric (just using them as placeholders) wins the People’s Champ? What chaos do you think that would bring?

For starters, whoever wins the Olympia and doesn’t win the People’s Champ is going to feel slighted. They won yet the people don’t think they deserve it? I didn’t think bodybuilding was about a popularity contest versus who brought the best physique to the stage on that given day? See where I’m going with this?

If Phil were to with his eighth Olympia title and lose the People’s Champ to someone else, you know he’s going to voice his opinion that he feels as if he’s being disrespected and that fans and competitors don’t give him the respect he deserves. Sure, he’s a great competitor, but people like rooting for other competitors at the same time which could be why they didn’t vote for Phil. I’ve personally worked with Phil not only when he was with MET-Rx when I worked with the brand, but he and I have worked on some content as well. He’s a cool dude. But, at the same time, I also like other competitors and figuring out who I’d vote for would be extremely difficult (assuming I’d even decide to vote).

Also, how does it look when fans chose one competitor to win yet the judging panel had someone else win? Wouldn’t that raise eyebrows that THE PEOPLE decided who they thought would win but didn’t according to the judge’s eyes? Turn it around and I guess it could be a positive if both the judges and the people chose the same competitor, but honestly, I don’t see that happening. I see people voting for their favorite bodybuilder and I hate to say it, but I don’t see the majority of the fans voting for Phil. Most would like to see a new champ, whether it be Ramy, Bonac, or even Kai if he decides to step back on stage this year.

Overall, I see this new People’s Champ opening up a can of worms for the bodybuilding world. I’d like to stay positive and say it’s going to be a hit and go off without a hitch, but I have a feeling that is wishful thinking. I’m sure we will all learn more details about how and who will be able to vote as the Mr. Olympia competition approaches. Until then, we are left speculating how all of this will play out. The good, the bad, and the potentially ugly. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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