I arrived at the Mandalay Bay around 12pm Thursday afternoon. Compared to the New York hotel and venue, this was incredible. The hotel is a first class hotel, everything about it looks good, from the details in the walls, to the elegant carpet, to the entire architecture of the place. Check in was surprisingly fast, and the room was wonderful, with a large bathroom, two closets, and a view overlooking the Mandalay Bay beach and wave pool. The hotel is huge, taking quite a number of minutes to walk to the venue where the press conference and the contest will be.
The annual press conference was held on Thursday, October 21, 1999 at 2pm in a conference room on the 'Beach' level of the Mandalay Bay. This is where members of the press pick up their 'press pass' for the Olympia Weekend events. If you do not show up for the press conference, then you do not get a 'press pass'. Simple as that, although of course, there are always legitimate excuses in which you would need to plead with Wayne DeMilia (promoter, IFBB president) to get it later.
The press conference is a chance to see all of the competitors at their best, to ask them questions, to take their pictures, to see if they are ready to compete in the greatest bodybuilding and fitness event of the year. It is a chance to get to know them a little better. This year, the event was free to all who wanted to come. Fifteen minutes prior to 2pm, there was a line of over 500 fans patiently waiting outside.
At 2pm, fans poured into the room, and by the start of the press conference, after hundreds of photos were taken of the athletes sitting in their seats on stage, there was standing room only. Wayne DeMilia opened the session by introducing all of the competitors. There was no favorites here, as they were sitting alphabetically, although it was interesting to note that the top two bodybuilders vieing for the title were sitting at complete opposite ends (Ronnie Coleman and Ken 'Flex' Wheeler)
The question and answer session then began. A line formed down the middle aisle of fans asking questions, or fans just wanting to praise their favorite bodybuilder or fitness competitor. It was interesting to see how some fans had stories of how 'this bodybuilder' is an inspiration to them, and made a difference in their lives. These competitors are truly role models for the fans, and thus, sometimes try to live up to that. The mood of the hour plus session was light and lots of times, there was laughter and cheering from the audience. The bodybuilders definitely received more attention than the fitness competitors, but everyone expected this.
Paul Dillett was asked 'How are you feeling' which brought a laugh throughout the audience. For those who did not know, Paul withdrew after the first round last year due to him 'not feeling well'. Paul answered back that he was feeling 'quite good'.
A number of other athletes were asked 'What would they do differently this year from last year?' Each had an interesting answer, but Ronnie Coleman's answer was the best. He said 'he did not do anything different at all, why should he?'
A question was asked to Shawn Ray if he would retired after this 12th appearance in the Mr. Olympia. Shawn answered back by saying that he 'retires every year after the Mr. Olympia'.
A question was asked to Markus Ruhl what the Night of Champions, should have have place higher? Markus was a gentleman, albiet his English is hard to understand, but still circumvented the question into explaining this is his beginning years as a pro bodybuilders, and lots more to come. In Germany, he is a big star. In America, a little star with lots to learn.
A question was asked to Milos Sarcev and Milamar Flores Sarcev about the toughness of their life. This is the first time that a Mr. Olympia competitor and a Fitness Olympia competitor have qualified for their shows and are married to each other. This is also Milos' 66th professional bodybuilding show.
Ronnie Coleman definitely had the most questions asked to him. Questions ranged from his training partner and girlfriend Vickie Gates (Ms. International 1999) to 'How much is his record bench press'. For the latter question, Ronnie went into a long explanation on what is the difference between a bodybuilder and a powerlifter, and that bodybuilders do not care how much they bench press, or squat, or deadlift, because bodybuilders sculpt their bodies, not care about bench press records. Ronnie was also asked about his broken toe a couple of months ago in which a friend he was training with dropped a 200lb dumbbell. Ronnie said he did not affect him at all, and was back training squats the next day.
This Mr. Olympia will also be the first time that the event will be broadcast live around the world, albiet, on the Internet, with Real Video. This year, you can tune into various sites and see the Mr. Olympia live. If the initial test works well, in the new millenium, perhaps the whole Olympia Weekend, with interviews, happenings and contests, will be broadcast. We shall see.