Should bodybuilding be an Olympic sport? After all, weightlifting has been an Olympic sport since 1896 and has appeared in every Olympic Games since 1920. In 1973, the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB), presided over by Ben Weider, petitioned the IOC to accept bodybuilding as an Olympic event but was summarily dismissed. The reason for this is that IOC didn’t, and still doesn’t, consider it a sport. However, that viewpoint is flawed based on several definitions of sport.
According to Sociology of Sport, a sport must fulfill all of the following:
1.) Activity becomes less subject to individual prerogative, with spontaneity severely diminished.
2.) Formal rules and structural role and position relationships and responsibilities within the activity assume predominance.
3.) Separation from the rigors and pressures of daily life become less prevalent.
4.) Individual liability and responsibility for the quality and character of his behavior during the course of the activity is heightened.
5.) The relevance of the outcome of the activity and the individual’s role in it extends to the groups and collectivities that do not participate directly in the act.
6.) Goals become diverse, complex, and more related to values emanating from outside of the context of the activity.
7.) The activity consumes a greater proportion of the individual’s time and attention due to the need for preparation and the degree of seriousness involved in the act.
To the educated eye, it is painfully obvious that bodybuilding does indeed meet all of these criteria and should be considered a sport. So why doesn’t the IOC budge? After all, bodybuilding has a large international fan base and is practiced all over the world.
Well another reason for their unwillingness is the excuse that the judging of bodybuilding is simply too subjective. There are currently 35 athletic disciplines in the Olympics, many of which are judged subjectively. Figure skating, gymnastics, diving, ice dancing, and snowboarding are but a few of the sports that are judged in this manner so that argument is completely invalid.
Furthermore, the IFBB has set definite requirements for competitions and competitors alike. There is elimination, pre-judging, semi-final and final rounds which each have specific requirements.
The debate rages on!
By Dr. Vincent K. Ramsey
Dr. Vincent K. Ramsey is the Chair of Sports Exercise Science at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.