Flex Flex UK - January 2018 - Page 96

AMI has increased prize money in response to the explosive growth of the women’s divisions in the past decade. Fast-forward to Olympia Weekend 2017 this past September. With more than $1.3 million in prize money, the million-dollar ceiling has been shattered. At the Saturday evening finals on the 16th, Pecker announced to the packed Orleans Arena crowd that AMI had taken 100% ownership of Olympia Weekend. Obviously, I had known about this for some time, but I have to admit that hearing him say the words onstage still had an effect on me. As I think back to everything that has happened since that day in 2004, I realize that the Olympia is unrecognizable from before AMI. What began in 1965 as a single contest for a handful of bodybuilders has expanded into a four-day event for the best bodybuilding, figure, fitness, physique, and classic physique athletes in the world. From stage production with lighting and video never before seen on a bodybuilding stage to fan events like Meet the Olympians and the Olympia Expo (more than 1,100 booths and 200 vendors), Olympia Weekend is a one-of-a-kind experience that people who see it live will never forget. Here, in excerpts from the speech he gave that night, are some of the highlights of this 94 FLEX | JANUARY 2018 growth spurt under the leadership of my good friend David J. Pecker, the man who elevated Olympia Weekend even higher to make it the undisputed greatest bodybuilding and fitness show on earth. No other event comes close to Olympia Weekend for sheer excitement. MR. OLYMPIA FINALS SEPT. 16, 2017; ORLEANS ARENA, LAS VEGAS This year marks a major milestone for me. It has been 15 years since I began working with Joe and Ben Weider on what has become the Super Bowl of bodybuilding. During this time, we increased the prize money by 150% to over $1.3 million, the number of exhibitors by 125% to 1,150, and the attendance by 400% to over 60,000 and counting. Therefore, I am very happy to tell you that this month American Media became the sole owner of Mr. Olympia, purchasing the remaining 50% ownership from the Weider family. I want to personally thank Eric Weider, Jim Manion, and