Former Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout Believes Contest Qualification Should Be More Selective


The Lion of Lebanon thinks the Olympia needs to showcase only the best of the best.

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To close the 2022 calendar year, the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) revealed the standards for the 2023 Olympia qualification process. The contest’s next iteration will occur sometime in November 2023 in Orlando, FL. Before that competitive moment arrives, a former Mr. Olympia (1983) champion, Samir Bannout, recently discussed what he feels are issues concerning bodybuilding’s main event.

During a Jan. 3, 2023, episode of The Muscle Maturity Podcast, Bannout broke down his current thoughts on bodybuilding as a sport and where he feels the flagship Mr. Olympia must evolve. Among the more notable bullet points was the former fitness titan stressing that the qualification process for the contest should be more rigid.

Perhaps the most significant change to the IFBB’s Olympia qualification system in 2023 was that there would no longer be a points system. Only the top-five finishers in the 2022 Mr. Olympia, the top three athletes in every other 2022 Olympia division, and the respective contest winners of every IFBB Pro League competition in 2023 will qualify for November’s festivities in Florida.

In a spanning discussion, this is a change that Bannout welcomed and said doesn’t go far enough. The 2022 Mr. Olympia stage held a field of 30 competitors vying for the title, which was too vast a field in Bannout’s experienced opinion.

“The Olympia should never be more than 20 contestants. Never. That should be the limit. The cream of the crop should get on that stage,” Bannout said. “If you don’t make the top ten, it’s over. I think the top five should qualify again.”

Regarding prize money, the Men’s Open category, with champion Hadi Choopan, eclipsed every other participating Olympia division by far in the 2022 edition of the Olympia. This is a discrepancy Bannout doesn’t appreciate. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bannout believes the Classic Physique division deserves more respect.

“A guy like Chris Bumstead, honestly, he was the most conditioned and the most professional at the Olympia weekend, and his check was $50,000.” Bannout started. “And the third-place winner (in the Men’s Open) took home $100,000. How [expletive] do you explain that?”

As for improving the Olympia’s general presentation, Bannout noted he thinks the contest’s organizers should be making more of an earnest effort to highlight past victors. To this former Olympia champion, his suggested plan is to continue building the sport’s mystique while catering to loyal spectators by honoring Olympia winners from previous years.

“It [would be] really cool every decade, at least or every 5-6 years, bring all the Mr. Olympias on stage for just two minutes,” Bannout proposed. “And that’s gonna bring a more happy atmosphere and celebration. Like Arnold does [at the Arnold Classic contest], he brings all the former Arnold Classic champions.”

Whether the IFBB and the Olympia’s organizers will take Bannout’s suggestions and apply them in the future remains to be seen. For now, he’s just the latest legend of the sport who seems to want better for those athletes that have come after him.

Featured image: @officialsamirbannout on Instagram

About Robert Zeglinski

Robert is a seasoned and adept editor and writer with a keen, passionate penchant for the writing craft. He’s been a leader in newsrooms such as SB Nation, USA TODAY, and WBBM Newsradio, with various other content and art production teams, and first made a name for himself in his hometown of Chicago. When not knee-deep in research or lost in a stream of consciousness for a thorough piece, you can find Robert inhaling yet another novel, journaling his heart out, or playing with his Shiba Inu, Maximus (Max, for short).

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