by Christian Duque
The Super Bowl of Bodybuilding is headed back to Orlando, FL, for the 2023 event. The show will be held in November, not September as it had been in the pre-pandemic days, and everyone is gearing up to be back in the sunshine state. Although there was a lot of big talk about the show’s return to the Las Vegas Strip and moving up from the outdated Orleans for Planet Hollywood, the show’s promoter may have liked Florida a little too much.
The fact is Florida is far more conducive for travelers and competitors alike. Their hotels are much better priced, you get more for your money, and the competitors prefer it because they don’t have to walk through noisy and smokey casinos. I never thought about that, but when I heard these points on a popular Instagram LIVE I found myself agreeing. Another great point that’s been made is the fact that Florida is a lot more family-friendly. I can honestly say I agree with this point as well because I’ve been to the Olympia in Vegas and I’ve been to the Olympia in Florida. When the show was in Orlando I saw more children and teenagers. It was the same expo and the same contest, but I saw more families in Florida than Nevada. I can’t say why but it was abundantly clear. The name of the game for big events is inclusiveness and the more of it that you have, the better.
Jake Wood is a very smart man. He knows that the key to truly growing bodybuilding is making it as mainstream-friendly as possible. The purists are all about keeping bodybuilding a niche sport. They don’t even want the newer divisions. If it were up to them, bodybuilding would be a well-kept secret. Sadly for them, this is a sport that wants to grow. It’s seen spurts when it was a lot more mainstream, even seeing television coverage on ESPN and FOX Sports. Those days were almost revisited in 2014 when NBC sought to air the Olympia. The Phil and Kai spat put an end to that, but the possibilities remained.
Vegas is a good place to get exposure but there’s just too much competition. Florida on the other hand makes more sense. It’s a hub for fitness and beauty. It’s also a place that’s a lot easier to work in.
Nevada has all sorts of union regulations. It’s also far more liberal than most states. During the pandemic Florida observed precautions but never shut down. This is why the O made the move there initially. And not just the O, but several contests went South. They went to the Carolinas, Georgia, and the sunshine state. The fact is the last thing promoters want to deal with is endless regulations and the uncertainty that comes with elected officials that flip flop on issues and change positions depending on which bloc sweetens them more.
Florida has a tried and true track record that’s pro business and ripe for investment. The Olympia would have a very fertile area to grow in. The event could become friendly to major area power brokers and set roots down that could see immediate benefits as soon as 3-5 years in. In Vegas it’s just another show on the already packed strip. They get love but they can get love anywhere. Florida is a gamechanger. I could actually see Governor DeSantis attending an Olympia. I kid you not. I could actually see that happening one day – maybe in 2023.
Florida is also preferred by competitors because of the proximity between hotels and the main venue. Convenience is a very prized commodity. At some contests, competitors need only walk down the hall from their room, jump in the elevator, and once the doors open, they’re at the show. Not only can’t you get that in Vegas, but it’s the norm in Florida. As a result shows in Florida will run far better on schedule meaning that shows won’t go into the late hours of the night. Shorter shows mean happier competitors. Also, fans won’t miss a beat or get any less entertainment. When you have six women’s divisions and four men’s divisions, you’re going to see a lot of amazing physiques, whether the contest runs till 2AM or midnight.
For my buddies who love going to Vegas, I feel bad to break the news, but I think 2022 was a one and done. I think once the O is back in Orlando in 2023 we’ll see them sign on to a venue for the foreseeable future. Moreover when Dan Solomon spoke about a dinner conversation where he talked about wanting a venue that could fit 15,000+ that speaks further to why Florida is the ideal place. Just as there’s a number of hotels to choose from, so too are there numerous venues to see the O move up the ladder in terms of seating capacity. Orlando is also centrally located giving Jake the option of maybe going to Jacksonville, Tampa, or if need be Miami or Fort Lauderdale. There’s a number of big cities all around. The possibilities are endless.
With Nevada, all there is is Vegas. What else is there? Reno? C’mon. It’s Vegas or the desert. And while Vegas does have some amazing suburbs, suburbs can’t compare to nearby cities. And suburbs don’t have 15,000+ venues to choose from. Logistically, Orlando makes more sense. Convenience-wise Orlando makes more sense. Price-wise Orlando makes more sense.
I’m curious what venue will be used or if they plan on using it at the Orange County convention center again. This venue could actually allow for bigger and bigger audiences by simply removing walls. I don’t mean tearing them down, lol, I just mean pulling down dividers that make this the perfect hall for shows of all sizes. If we’re talking about a place that can host a car show then there’s going to be plenty of space to have a few hundred or thousand athletes.
Again, the Olympia isn’t a contest known for quantity – rather – it’s all about quality. This is where the best of the best come and even if it’s a far smaller roster of athletes where the space will truly be needed is for the ticket-buying public.
When I went to the 2020 Olympia I thought the convention center was perfect. It was a great spot for an expo and the contest seating was pretty perfect. I was there before the show started and tried scoping out the stage from various different seats. I must admit that I sat in maybe five or six different spots and they all had a pretty good line of sight for the stage. That was pretty impressive.
All in all I think moving the Olympia to Orlando makes a lot of sense. I can be a harsh critic at times, but when things make sense I’m the first to clap my hands. I will always love Vegas and think it’s one of the most fun cities in the world; however, for growing the Olympia, Orlando may be a better choice given the times we’re in.
What say you? Where would you rather go see the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding – Vegas or Orlando?