A Brief History of the IFBB
As told through its International Congress Reports
By Tony Blinn
The International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) holds its 1st International Congress on September 4, 1970 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in conjunction with the “IFBB Mr. Universe”. Twenty-five countries attend this historic meeting at which a Constitution is adopted and an Executive Council is elected.
Twenty-four years earlier, in 1946 in Montreal, Ben and Joe Weider create the IFBB with two founding members – Canada and the USA. At the time, Joe is publisher of Your Physique and Ben is recently demobilized following service in the Canadian Army during World War II.
In 1947, Ben embarks on his first trip abroad, with stops in Paris, Cairo and Cape Town. By 1950, Ben has visited over 30 countries, including England where he meets the late Oscar State who would play a pivotal role in the early growth and development of the IFBB.
In 1955, Ben travels to Prague, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow and plants the seed that would see all of these countries join the IFBB, including the USSR in 1988.
In 1958, Ben journeys to Beijing and Shanghai; China would become a member in 1985. During the years 1946-1969, details of Ben’s travels and IFBB activities are published by Joe in his magazines, primarily Muscle Builder. These monthly “IFBB News & Notes” provide clear evidence that the IFBB extended family includes an ever-increasing number of National Federations, contests and activities from every corner of the globe. By 1970, the IFBB would have Directors in over 50 countries throughout Australia, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, and North, Central and South America.
In 1965, Joe creates the IFBB Mr. Olympia. Joe would later create the Ms. Olympia in 1980; the Fitness Olympia in 1995; and the Figure Olympia in 2003.
In the same year as the 1st International Congress, Arnold Schwarzenegger wins his first of seven Mr. Olympia titles and would go on to become a sport icon and legend, worldwide movie star and governor of California.
At its 2nd Congress in 1971 in Paris, France, the IFBB announces its recognition by the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). This would prove to be a watershed accomplishment since GAISF rules allow it to grant recognition to only one international federation per sport (GAISF would later become recognized by the International Olympic Committee). With this decision, in the eyes of sport and political officialdom, the IFBB has become the only legitimate International Sport Governing Body (ISGB) in the world for the sport of bodybuilding.
Baghdad, Iraq hosts the 3rd Congress in 1972. Proving that bodybuilding is acknowledged at the highest levels of sport, IFBB recognition appears for the first time ever on the agenda of the 71st Session of the International Olympic Committee as published in Olympic Review, official journal of the IOC.
At its 4th Congress in 1973 in Geneva, Switzerland, the IFBB adopts the Official Guide Book for Judges. Oscar State is honored for creating the first IFBB Constitution and Rules. The Medical Commission, established in 1971, issues its first of many reports on the subject of doping in sport.
Verona, Italy is the site of the 5th Congress (electoral) in 1974. Continental federations are approved in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. Initial talks begin between Ben Weider and Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation, regarding a new concept - the World Games, the Olympic games of non-Olympic sports. Ben Weider, having been unanimously elected “Life President” in 1970, declines this status and stands for election in the same manner and under the same rules as all other members. Lou Ferrigno, of “Incredible Hulk” fame, wins the 1974 “IFBB Mr. Universe” title for the second year in a row.
The 6th Congress in Pretoria, South Africa in 1975 is a triumph not only for the IFBB but also, over apartheid as Ben Weider works tirelessly to assure equality for all sportsmen regardless of race, religion, politics or culture. In fact, Ben’s steadfast belief in liberty, equality and fraternity would become the creed of the IFBB – “In sport, there are no limitations; no barriers of race, religion, politics or culture. In sport, we are in touch with each other. Bodybuilding is important for nation building.” Arnold Schwarzenegger wins his 6th Mr. Olympia and becomes chairman of the first IFBB Professional Committee. The “Overall Champion” award is discontinued until it is resurrected in 1996. For his pioneering efforts in the fields of exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, Ben Weider receives the “Order of Canada”, the Canadian government’s highest civilian honor.
Montreal, Canada, birthplace of the IFBB, plays host to the 7th Congress in 1976. Short, Medium and Tall classes are replaced by Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight categories. The term “IFBB Mr. Universe” is replaced by “IFBB Men’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships”. For the first time, the Prejudging is opened to the public.
In 1977, the 8th Congress is held in Nîmes, France. The IFBB passes the 100 mark in the number of National Affiliates. The New York Times, America’s most prestigious newspaper, calls bodybuilding “the fastest growing sport in the world today”. The film “Pumping Iron”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is released and would become the all-time classic bodybuilding movie.
The 9th Congress (electoral) takes place in Acapulco, Mexico in 1978. A record 42 countries attend. The President’s Gold Medal is created. After a 32-year battle with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for the control of bodybuilding in the USA, the IFBB and the sport emerge victorious.
At its 10th Congress in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 1979, the IFBB creates its first IFBB Women’s Committee, with Christine Zane (USA) its first chairwoman. A new Light-Heavyweight category is opened for competition. The event is organized by the team of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer, who would in 1989 create the prestigious Arnold Classic.
Manila, Philippines hosts the 11th Congress in 1980. Oscar State becomes Executive Vice President (now Executive Assistant to the President). Oscar creates an IFBB Code of Ethics and a Professional Rulebook, which are adopted by the Executive Council and Congress. Muscle & Fitness becomes the official journal of the IFBB.
The 12th Congress takes place in Cairo, Egypt in 1981. For the first time, the IFBB Men’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships are stated outdoors, at the foot of the Pyramids. Bodybuilding (men and women) participates as a medal sport in the 1st World Games in Santa Clara, California, USA.
At the 13th Congress (electoral) in Brugge, Belgium in 1982, a new record is set with 46 countries in attendance. Lee Haney (USA) wins the Heavyweight category and would go on to break Arnold’s record of 7 Mr. Olympia titles. The first IFBB Juniors & Masters World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships are held in Torremolinos, Spain.
Singapore is the site of the 14th Congress in 1983. A Bantamweight category is opened for competition at this year’s Championships. The Congress votes to implement doping controls in 1985. FLEX becomes the official journal of the IFBB. The first IFBB Women’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships is held in London, England with Lightweight and Middleweight categories.
The 15th Congress is held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in 1984 and sets a new record for attendance with 58 countries. Oscar State, OBE, passes away on July 2, 1984. The “Oscar State Memorial Award” would be created to honor his memory and would be presented each year to the Top Administrator in the IFBB. The IFBB now has over 125 National Affiliates. The first IFBB Mixed-Pairs World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships are held in Madrid, Spain. Ben Weider is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for “extraordinary efforts aimed at bridging understanding, through the medium of sport, between people around the world”.
Gotenburg, Sweden is the site of the 16th Congress in 1985. China becomes a member of the IFBB. Prof. Dr. Manfred Donike (Germany), Chairman IOC Doping Commission, agrees to act as special advisor to the IFBB. Bodybuilding participates as a medal sport in the 2nd World Games in London, England. Dr. Rafael Santonja (Spain) is appointed Executive Assistant to the President. Three categories are approved for women’s bodybuilding: Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight. The documentary film “Pumping Iron II: The Women” is released. Bodybuilding is recognized by the Olympic Council of Asia.
In 1986, the 17th Congress (electoral) in Tokyo, Japan, is yet another watershed moment in the history of the IFBB. Having resolved all legal and technical issues that arose the previous year, doping controls are conducted at the IFBB Men’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships. The Bantamweight category is re-opened and would remain as the 5th category.
The 18th Congress is held in Madrid, Spain in 1987. A new record is set with 60 countries in attendance. Ben Weider is invited by Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President, to address the IOC Executive Board regarding IFBB recognition.
The Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia is the site of the 19th Congress in 1988. The USSR (Russia) becomes a member of the IFBB.
At its 20th Congress in Paris, France in 1989, the IFBB reports on its participation as a medal sport in the 3rd World Games in Karlsruhe, Germany.
In 1990, the 21st Congress (electoral) is held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With 70 countries present, a new record for attendance is set.
Katowice, Poland hosts the 22nd Congress in 1991. The IFBB approves a Pan-Arab Bodybuilding Federation and efforts are made to bring the 22 nations of the South Pacific into the IFBB. Ronnie Coleman (USA) wins the Heavyweight category and, in 2006, will attempt to break Lee Haney’s record by winning his 9th straight Mr. Olympia title.
The 23rd Congress is held in Graz, Austria in 1992. Due to the efforts of Warren Langman (Norfolk Island), IFBB Vice President South Pacific, the IFBB is recognized by the South Pacific Olympic Council, which itself is recognized by the IOC.
Seoul, Korea is the site of the 24th Congress in 1993. The IFBB now has over 150 National Affiliates. Bodybuilding is recognized by over 90 National Olympic Committees. The IFBB participates as a medal sport in the 4th World Games in The Hague, Netherlands.
Shanghai, China hosts the 25th Congress (electoral) in 1994. The Welterweight category is opened for competition. The IFBB Technical Committee is reactivated; Tony Blinn, CD (Canada) is elected Chairman. Pamela Kagan (Canada) is appointed IFBB Executive Director.
The 26th Congress takes place in Guam in 1995. Prof. Dr. Manfred Donike passes away. A new Constitution is adopted. The IFBB Gold Order is created; its first recipients are Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President, Dr. Rafael Santonja, IFBB Executive Assistant to the President, and Paul Chua (Singapore), IFBB Vice President for Asia. Bodybuilding is recognized by the Supreme Council of Sport for Africa.
The 27th Congress is held in Amman, Jordan in 1996. Seventy countries participate, tying the record set in 1990. The IFBB now participates in most IOC Regional Games e.g. South East Asia, Asian, South American, Central American, Caribbean, Arab, and South Pacific. The IFBB begins a long-term collaboration with the International Sport Press Association. The “Overall Champion” award is reinstated.
At the 28th Congress in Prague, Czech Republic in 1997, a new attendance record is set with 72 countries. The IFBB participate as a medal sport in the 5th World Games in Lahti, Finland. Prof. Dr. Eduardo H. De Rose (Brazil), IOC Doping Commission, is appointed special advisor to the IFBB Medical Commission. The Deviation Method of calculating Judging Accuracy Scores is implemented at all World Championships. Women’s Fitness becomes a sport discipline at the World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Izmir, Turkey hosts the 29th Congress (electoral) in 1998 and President Weider proudly announces yet another watershed moment in the history of the IFBB; the granting of provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee. President Weider remarks, “My 52 years of determination and persistence has finally paid off.” Dr. Rafael Santonja is congratulated on playing a key role in IOC acceptance. IFBB.com goes online in October.
The 30th Congress is held in Bratislava, Slovakia in 1999. The new IFBB Doping Control Policy & Anti-Doping Program is introduced, following the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code. A Judges Ranking System is implemented at all World Championships.
Malacca, Malaysia is the site of the 31st Congress in 2000. IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch attends his first bodybuilding competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, the European Men’s Bodybuilding Championships.
The 32nd Congress is held in Yangon, Myanmar in 2001. A Flyweight category is opened for competition at this year’s Championships. The IFBB participates as a medal sport in the 6th World Games in Akita, Japan.
Cairo, Egypt hosts the 33rd Congress (electoral) in 2002. A Light-Middleweight category is opened for competition. Women’s Body Fitness becomes a sport discipline at the World Championships in Brno, Czech Republic. The European Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation is created. Thanks to the Herculean efforts of Paul Chua, “Father of Bodybuilding in Asia”, bodybuilding participates for the first time as a medal sport in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.
The 34th Congress is held in Mumbai, India in 2003. The IFBB votes unanimously to become a Signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. Men’s Fitness becomes a sport discipline at the World Cup level. The IFBB and the sport of bodybuilding are officially recognized by the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) as a member of the Association of Pan American Sports Confederations (APASC).
At the 35th Congress in Moscow, Russia in 2004, the IFBB changes its long-name to “International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness”.
The 36th Congress is held in Shanghai, China in 2005. The IFBB participates as a medal sport in the 7th World Games in Duisburg, Germany. The new sport discipline of “Classic Bodybuilding” is officially recognized and will be opened for competition at the World level in 2006. The IFBB adopts new IFBB Anti-Doping Rules, following the World Anti-Doping Code. A new Super-Heavyweight category is opened for competition. The IFBB Professional League becomes its own legal entity, with its own rules and regulations. The IFBB Constitution becomes an amateur-only sport governing document. The IFBB has 173 National Affiliates.
The 37th Congress (electoral) is held in Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2006. After 60 years as President of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, Ben Weider officially retires from the international amateur sport governing body he founded and led since 1946. On October 29, 2006, at the IFBB International Congress, Ben addresses the delegates from 63 countries by video, and announces his decision to retire as IFBB President. Ben assures all members that he will remain available should the new President, Executive Council or National Federations require his counsel or assistance. Afterwards, the Congress unanimously elects Dr. Rafael Santonja of Madrid, Spain, as the new IFBB President. Since 1985, Rafael has served with distinction as Ben's Executive Assistant. Rafael worked closely with Ben over the past 21 years, traveling the world on behalf of the IFBB, solving difficult problems with skill and diplomacy, and working diligently to raise the image of the IFBB in the sporting world, most particularly among IOC officials. Rafael’s first official act as the newly elected IFBB President is to nominate Ben Weider as Honorary Life President. The Congress voices its unanimous approval with a standing ovation.
The IFBB Men’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships sees competition in 8 categories: Bantam (65kg), Light (70kg), Welter (75kg), Light-Middle (80kg), Middle (85kg), Light-Heavy (90kg), Heavy (100kg) and Super-Heavy (100+kg). Classic Bodybuilding, with weight limits, makes its debut on the world stage with 3 categories: Short (170cm), Medium (178cm) and Tall (178+cm). The Congress adopts two women's bodybuilding categories, with a cutoff of 55kg.
The 38th Congress will be held in Jeju, South Korea in 2007.
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