The Lion of Lebanon believes the Olympics should only showcase the best of the best.
At the conclusion of the 2022 calendar year, the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) announced the standards for the 2023 Olympic qualification process. The next edition of the competition will be held sometime in November 2023 in Orlando, FL. Ahead of that competitive moment, a former Mr. Olympia (1983) champion, Samir Bannout, recently spoke out about what he thinks are issues relating to bodybuilding’s main event.
During a January 3, 2023 episode of The Muscle Maturity Podcast, Bannout broke down his current thoughts on bodybuilding as a sport and explained where he feels the flagship Mr. Olympia needs to evolve. Among the more notable bullet points was the former fitness titan emphasizing this the qualification process for the competition should be stricter.
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This was perhaps the most significant change to the IFBB’s 2023 Olympic qualification system there would no longer be a points system. Only the top five finishers from the 2022 Mr. Olympia, the top three athletes in each other 2022 Olympia divisions, and the respective competition winners of each IFBB Pro League competition in 2023 will qualify for November’s celebrations in Florida.
In a full discussion, it’s a change that Bannout welcomed, saying it doesn’t go far enough. The 2022 Mr. Olympia stage featured 30 competitors fighting for the title, which Bannout’s experienced opinion was too big a field.
“The Olympia should never have more than 20 participants. Never. That should be the limit. The crème de la crème should come on this stage,” said Bannout. “If you don’t make the top ten, it’s over. I think the top 5 should qualify again.”
In terms of prize money, the men’s Open category with champion Hadi Choopan at the 2022 edition of the Olympia far eclipsed every other participating Olympia division. That’s a discrepancy that Bannout fails to appreciate. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bannout believes that Classic Physique deserves more respect.
“A guy like Chris Bumstead was honestly the most conditioned and professional at the Olympics weekend, and his check was $50,000,” Banout started. “And the third place finisher (at the Men’s Open) took home $100,000. how [expletive] will you explain that?”
As for improving the overall presentation of the Olympia, Bannout noted that he believes the competition organizers should make a greater effort to highlight previous winners. For this former Olympic champion, he suggests expanding the mystique of the sport while still catering to loyal viewers by honoring Olympic champions from years past.
“It [would be] Really cool to have all the Mr. Olympias on stage for just two minutes every ten years at least or every 5-6 years,” Bannout suggested. “And that will bring a happier atmosphere and celebration. Just like Arnold does [at the Arnold Classic contest]he brings all the former Arnold Classic champions with him.”
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Whether the IFBB and Olympic organizers will take up Bannout’s suggestions and apply them in the future remains to be seen. For now, he’s just the sport’s newest legend who seems to want more for the athletes who have come after him.
Featured image: @officialsamirbannout on Instagram