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When the Olympia announced major changes in leadership following last year’s event, there were questions surrounding how the changes might impact the 2019 event for fans, competitors, sponsors, and exhibitors. The hiring of long-time industry insider Dan Solomon as Chief Olympia Officer was a move designed to bring something new to the Olympia as it entered its 55th year.
Muscle & Fitness caught up with Dan for a look back at what’s being called the most successful Olympia Weekend in years.
M&F: How do you feel about your first year running the fitness industry’s most prestigious event?
Dan: To be completely honest, the emotion I’m feeling most is gratitude. From the moment I accepted the job, I’ve received tremendous support. The Olympia means so much to so many people, and I knew there were things that needed to change in order to re-ignite the Olympia as an event and as a brand. I had several goals for this first year, and I’m proud to say our team was prepared for the challenge.
M&F: What were you feeling during the big arena show on Saturday night?
Dan: A have to admit, it was emotional for me as I stood inside the Orleans Arena on Saturday night. We worked so hard all year to reach new audiences and encourage fans to join us in Vegas. In the weeks leading up to the event, some were questioning whether ticket sales would be negatively affected by news that a few contenders wouldn’t be competing. As it turned out, the building was jam-packed and it was so gratifying to feel the electricity inside the arena.
M&F: What about the large expo crowds at the convention center?
Dan: Providing maximum value for our exhibitors by increasing expo traffic was a high priority. After a series of strategic changes, I am pleased to report a sizable increase in expo attendance on both Friday and Saturday. The feedback from exhibitors has been overwhelmingly positive and we are already receiving sponsorship and exhibitor requests for next year.
M&F: We also noticed the stage production was turned up a notch this year.
Dan: Thanks for asking about the arena stage, because this is something we focused heavily on. From day one, David Pecker (Chairman and CEO of American Media) has been incredibly supportive of my desire to elevate overall production. Our Olympia athletes are the best in the world, and they deserve to compete on a stage worthy of their status. Our Producer Tamer El-Guindy and Director Martin Carrillo deserve a lot of credit for bringing this vision to life.
M&F: How did you manage to get so many celebrities to the event?
Dan: Years ago, celebrity appearances were common at the Olympia. It’s been a high priority for all of us to bring back the stars. From Mark Wahlberg and Shaquille O’Neil to Mario Lopez, Tito Ortiz, Josh Brolin, and others, it was great welcoming some of the biggest stars in the world to the arena and to the convention center. It’s all part of our ongoing work to reach mass audiences, and the fans always love seeing the stars.
M&F: Overall, what part of the 2019 Olympia are you most proud of?
Dan: I don’t even know where to begin. I’m pleased by increases in attendance throughout the entire weekend. We saw a 25% increase in attendance at our Meet the Olympians event, and we had similar increases at the press conference. Our Amateur Olympia was the largest we’ve ever had with more than 600 competitors, we set a new record for total sponsor revenue, and we were able to award record prize money. I was also glad we were able to deliver a high-quality webcast for fans around the world. But the part I’m most proud of is the year-round work of our core team; Tamer El-Guindy, Angelica Nebbia, Martin Carrillo, Cayden Riley, Heather Wilson, Sofia Evangelista and Michelle Arthur. I’d like to also thank our media correspondent Shawn Ray, emcee Bob Cicherillo, and of course Jim Manion and the 177 IFBB Professional League athletes who worked so hard to prepare for the Olympia stage.
Jim Manion, IFBB Pro League President
“I’m very proud of the success of this year’s Olympia. The weekend was over the top with a jam-packed expo and a sold-out arena. We had several new champions emerging to prove again that the Olympia is where the best of the best compete.”
Dexter Jackson, Mr. Olympia 4th Place Finisher
“This was my 20th Olympia, and I have to say this year was just as amazing as my very first Olympia. The production and the stage was crazy! Shout out to Dan and the entire crew for doing such an amazing job this year. It was a memorable experience for us all.”
Steve Weinberger, Olympia Head Judge
“The 2019 Olympia was a great success! It was an extremely exciting weekend with more prize money and the inclusion of the female divisions in the press conference as well as having all the divisions on the main arena stage. A job very well done!”
Aaron Singerman, CEO of RedCon1 Nutrition
“This year’s Olympia was among the best ever. The production of the show and the way we were treated as sponsors was top notch. Dan and his team have taken an already prestigious event to the next level.”