Mike O’Hearn sits down with chief Olympia officer Dan Solomon to discuss transforming the Mr. Olympia into an athlete first event.

The Mr. Olympia competition and expo is the biggest weekend in the sport of bodybuilding. It’s the super bowl of the sport and continues to set the standard for the best bodybuilders in the world. Dan Solomon is the president and chief officer for the Olympia brand – and has worked with relative new owner Jake Wood to completely transform the Mr. Olympia into a new and improved event. In Generation Iron and Barbend’s latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, Dan Solomon talks about a complete change in Olympia mentality with owner Jake Wood – and how he is willing to bring passion and athletes first over corporate boardroom decisions.

In February 2020, it was announced that American Media Inc would be selling the Mr. Olympia brand. It was a shocking moment for the biggest event in the sport and left the future of the brand uncertain – at least initially. However, confidence quickly grew after new owner Jake Wood’s first swing at running and promoting the Mr. Olympia. Despite a pandemic shutting down majority of the world – Wood ensured that prize money was not cut and that the event would still be held, even if it was in a smaller form without an expo.

Now two years past Jake Wood’s purchase of the Olympia brand – and only a few months away from his third year overseeing the Mr. Olympia weekend, Mike O’Hearn sat down with chief Olympia officer Dan Solomon to talk about what to expect at this year’s Olympia, how Jake Wood’s mentality brought growth and change to the event, and how the recent health worries in the sport will be handled for this prestigious event. Let’s jump into it.

“If you know Jake, you’re dealing with someone who is obsessed with growing the sport.”
– Dan Solomon

Dan Solomon On How Jake Wood bBrings A Weider-Like Passion Back To The Mr. Olympia

The AMI owned Mr. Olympia event was still a large success since their ownership of the brand in 2003. However, it was also a more corporate mentality behind the scenes. This mentality slowly became more apparent to fans and athletes of the sport. Controversial decisions to such as dropping the Ms. Olympia from the lineup and lack of athlete support were often cited as frustrating moves. That being said, there’s no doubt that the size, scope, and prize money of the event continued to grow year after year.

Now with AMI out of the picture, the brand is owned under a singular entity instead of a board committee. During our interview, Dan Solomon provides some true insight into how that change in ownership led to a big shift in mentality. Drawing comparisons to Joe Weider, the original Olympia owner, Solomon impresses just how much Jake Wood is willing to push to make the Olympia brand about the athletes and fans first. While profit and bottom line do matter – Wood is also willing to take a financial hit in these first few years of ownership to establish a new baseline for the Mr. Olympia.

The biggest example of this was Jake Wood’s decision to not only keep the Mr. Olympia event running during the 2020 lockdowns – but to also take a financial hit in order to keep the price money the same.

“I told Jake, no one would hate you or fault you for cutting the prize money this year [during the pandemic lockdown]… And his response was, and I’m not making this up, the athletes shouldn’t have to pay the price for that.”
– Dan Solomon

But that mentality from Jake Wood didn’t just stop at the pandemic. Dan Solomon reveals that in prepping for each year’s show – he would talk to Wood about costs and risks for providing certain elements into the Mr. Olympia event. In many cases, Wood would rather take the financial burden himself in order to give the athletes and fans what is best for a new and improved Olympia.

This passionate mentality seems to be paying off – as Dan Solomon also points out that the Mr. Olympia this still selling out, finding great success with the new and improved PPV broadcast model, and is able to be held in a more prestigious location – fitting of the Olympia name. By putting passion first – the Olympia is seeing new growth. And with a 2022 lineup in Men’s Open that may be the best in recent history, excitement is at an all time high.


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How The Olympia Looks To The Future For Promoting Health In Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding in 2021 and 2022 was a particularly tragic one for the sport. Many pro and amateur competitive bodybuilders were reported passing away at a much too young age. While no studies have linked these deaths to one singular cause in the sport – it has triggered a bigger conversation about health in bodybuilding.

Mike O’Hearn asked Dan Solomon how the Olympia brand plans to react to this conversation – and if it will help promote health and longevity. Solomon agrees that with a brand as big as Olympia, it’s important to use that platform to promote health in the sport. Jake Wood has even previously stated that he plans to take action to help steer athletes towards healthier strategies.

While no specific plan was mentioned – Dan Solomon believes that the first goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in an individual before they even begin true bodybuilding prep. Solomon compares this to other extreme activities – such as sky diving. It’s important to make sure that a person is health and has no pre-existing issues that can trigger a medical emergency during a sky diving jump. The same advice should be given to aspiring bodybuilders. Make sure you have a clean bill of health and are aware of any pre-existing conditions before diving head first into an extreme sport such as competitive bodybuilding.

The second most important advice, according to Dan Solomon, is to ensure that individuals surround themselves with qualified experts who provide advice. Solomon believes that the internet has provided individuals with too many grifters who are not actually qualified to give healthy advice. How the Olympia brand can help promote this idea is unclear at this time. But perhaps education and content focused on what to look for in a good nutritionist, coach, or trainer is a start.

Wrap Up

On the most extreme end of the spectrum, there were fans that criticized the Olympia brand under AMI as having lost its way. It seems that Jake Wood’s ownership has help bring optimism back to this category of bodybuilding fans. With an athletes first approach – Jake Wood, Dan Solomon, and the entire behind the scenes team are aiming to take the Olympia brand to a new level.

You can watch Dan Solomon’s full comments in our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Make sure to catch new episodes every Friday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.