The debate on whether bodybuilding should be an Olympic sport has been raging for years amongst the bodybuilding community and those interested in the Olympics. Ardent fans argue that weightlifting has been an Olympic sport for years, so why not bodybuilding? To diehard fans, bodybuilding and the Olympics seems to be a perfect fit, and questions like “Why is bodybuilding not already an Olympic sport?” are routinely aired.
Perhaps the more telling questions to ask are “Should bodybuilding be an Olympic sport?”, and “Would making bodybuilding an Olympic sport help the Olympics?”
Bodybuilding And The Olympics: Why It Is Not Already An Olympic Sport
The current Olympic program consists of 35 sports, 53 disciplines and more than 400 events, ranging from archery through to weightlifting and wrestling. The bodybuilding fan base, competitors, and sponsors are all ready and willing to take the step to Olympic level. The stumbling block is the International Olympic Committee and the OPC, who state simply that according to their criteria, bodybuilding is not a sport and there has no place in the Olympics.
This stand begs the question, “what determines a sport in the first place?”. A simple definition by the Australian Sports Foundation says that sport is “a human activity capable of achieving a result requiring physical exertion and/or physical skill, which, by its nature and organisation, is competitive and is generally accepted as being a sport.”
Arguably, bodybuilding fits within this definition, and one would think this should be enough for the IOC. However, the primary problem the IOC has with allowing bodybuilding into the Olympics concerns drug abuse. They claim that the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by bodybuilders would prevent bodybuilding from complying with Olympic drug policies. There are harsh and vigilant doping rules for Olympic competitors, which would certainly exclude many professional bodybuilders.
However, the natural bodybuilding fraternity does not use performance enhancing drugs. The Olympics could uphold their drug policies, allowing only natural bodybuilders to compete at the Olympics. This also aligns with the tradition of the Olympics being a competition for sporting amateurs, not professionals.
Another reason stated by the IOC for excluding bodybuilding from the Olympics was that the judging in competitive bodybuilding was far too subjective for an Olympic judge to critique. Given the controversy surrounding the subjective judging of sports such as ice skating, diving, and gymnastics this argument hardly seems to hold water. In fact, bodybuilding would seem to be a perfect fit!
How Bodybuilding Could Help The Olympics
As competitive bodybuilding has never been a mainstream sport, including it as an Olympic Sport would allow the sport to be better known and recognized. It would also make the sport more accessible, allowing people to learn more about bodybuilding, and possibly participate themselves.
Bodybuilding would also help the Olympics by widening the scope of sports on display. By showcasing bodybuilding, the Olympics would be encouraging people of all ages to eat good food, work out, become fit, and look after their health. These are important messages in a world where so many people are overweight.
A look back into history reveals that the Olympics were first introduced by the Greeks, who idolized and revered well toned, aesthetic bodies with healthy strong physiques.
Bodybuilding And The Olympics: The Main Argument Against
Besides the drug doping issue, perhaps the most prominent argument against including bodybuilding in the Olympics is the subjectivity of judges and the fact that there is often no clear winner. Even though other Olympic sports like ice skating are also in this category, the majority of Olympic sporting events feature clear winners, either by time, distance, height or lifting weight. No one can argue that judging mistakes have been made when a competitor clearly wins an event.
Although the jury is still out on bodybuilding and Olympics, it seems for the time being at least, that the Olympic Committee has no intention of including bodybuilding as an Olympic sport. Despite the fact that the bodybuilding fraternity is ready and willing to take the step to Olympic level, it looks like they will be waiting for some time yet.