It was May 6th when Luke, the head of Bulk Nutrients customer service team and I (Nick – the technical advisor) received an email from Jess Crowley, our Manager – casually asking if we’d like to fly over to the 2015 Mr Olympia and snap a few pics for social media coverage, and write a blog on our experience when we return. While Luke and I have experienced many Professional Bodybuilding shows and witnessed Mr Olympia competitors compete here in Australia, it was both our dream to be in attendance of a Mr Olympia competition. Ever since that email in May, we’d remind ourselves in between customer emails of how long we had left to go.
For a while, it seemed like the day would never come, but then suddenly it hit us that we were only a day away from leaving – and then, just like that – off to Las Vegas we went. It was great to see Qantas warming up the Aussies with an american themed in-flight meal when we were flying, a mini burger and hotdog!
It was the moment that the plane came down for landing that it finally hit us, and we realised where we actually were. I am so thankful to have had a window seat coming in to Vegas, you couldn’t imagine a better laid out city of lights! All the hotels were standing tall and bright, greeting us both as we came down. All of them familiar to us from many movies we’ve watched over the years – Caesars Palace, Man dalay Bay and The Bellagio were the first three to welcome us. That’s when it all became real.
Our first interactions with the people of America was on our way through Customs. We’d over heard the staff talking about how the queue for customs clearance was one of the longest they’d seen. Despite this, when I finally reached my Customs Officer, we ended up in an extensive conversation, long after he had finished checking my details. With a queue of people waiting, we talked about the Mr Olympia, old days of bodybuilding, his love for Australians and somehow managed to start talking about the track pants I was wearing at the time – disagreeing and agreeing on certain styles! This was my first experience of the USA and it continued on like this for the remainder of our trip no matter where we went, especially as the locals heard our Australian accents.
We were both quite slow to understand the tipping system there. As we know, here in Australia, if a taxi ride is $30, you hand the taxi driver $30. Or you sit there waiting for your change! Boy, were we seen as the tightest two in Vegas on our arrival. For those that haven’t been to the US, a $30 total cab ride with at least an extra $3 or so thrown in will get you a “have a nice day” at the very least. Paying precisely as the meter shows will get you the sound of silence. We figured out pretty quickly how serious tips are taken here and quickly adapted before our faces were pinned up all over town. Fortunately for us, this was pretty much limited to restaurants and cab rides only.
Here we were, we had arrived at The Orleans Hotel – the very location the Mr Olympia is held! Come the weekend of the competition, the entire hotel had bodybuilders roaming around everywhere, including the Mr Olympia competitors themselves. However, they were carefully covering up their physiques in full tracksuits until show day. The experience had started already.
With plenty of time up our sleeves before Saturday night’s Mr Olympia final, we were fortunate enough to get to attend the Olympia Expo.
It was great being on the other end of things at an expo for a change. By this we mean it was our turn to finally go around collecting free samples! (insert sneaky smiley face here). We have given out literally hundreds of thousands of free Bulk Nutrients samples at expos and competitions over the years, so we felt we were a little deserving of seeing what there was on offer from companies over in the US, and we are glad to say that we certainly stumbled across some great new ideas for our R&D team. We saw a bigger trend in snack type samples being handed out over here, so our bulk fans should expect this to be a huge part of our range in the future.
While the Olympia Expo was bigger than anything we have ever had here in Australia, I was told by a local that it’s the original Arnold Classic Expo in Ohio that leads in terms of size. I was personally amazed but wasn’t entirely gob-smacked as I guess we have already been groomed here in Australia with previous ‘Fit-X’ events and more recently the ‘Arnold Classic Australia’ Expo. To anyone that followed our Twitter feed while we were there, there is a short clip we posted of our surroundings.
Other than the size of the hall, highlights here were a very impressive Michael Jackson impersonator and man of the moment in sport, Floyd “Money” Mayweather in attendance at one of the supplement stands. I was determined to get a good shot and video of him. I got myself in a decent enough spot that people behind me were passing me their phones so I could get pictures for them! It was great to see such a huge celebrity so quickly in our travels. Both days we were here we noticed that the Professional Bodybuilders weren’t in strong attendance at their booths as you may see them at an Expo here in Australia. I get that this may be due to actually needing to keep on prepping for the Mr Olympia competition, but just an observation. To me this did give Australian expo attendees at say a Fit-x or Arnold Classic Australia much more “bang for your buck”.
One of items on our bodybuilding bucket list of things-to-do was about to be ticked off next, and that was to be live and present at a Mr Olympia competition for the first time! No live streaming the event from a bad connection back in Australia getting cut off just as they’re about to announce the winner – we were about to actually be seated, watching it live with our very own eyes.
The walk from the Orleans Hotel to the Orleans Arena was an experience in itself. If you can imagine what it would be like being a Wildebeest in Africa migrating from one territory to another, you wouldn’t be too far off how it felt. All of us of the same species (bodybuilders), getting to our new destination showered and dressed, ready for the “Grand Final” of bodybuilding. Lean muscle to the left, silicone to the right, we were all heading to the same destination. Slowly.
What the live feed on the internet doesn’t give you is the Orleans Arena atmosphere. As a person who has avidly watched these events from home, I really felt this was something the Olympia production could improve on. All they would need to do is pan the camera out to the Arena for more than a few seconds, and maybe even get some crowd interviews happening in between breaks. If you think of a Tennis match, the camera is never just on the players, they’ll cut to crowd reactions and show you a section of the stand erupt with a point scored, but enough about that – we’re sure they will read this and make the appropriate changes in future.
So, back to the atmosphere of the event itself – what was more of a highlight to me was the crowd experience in the arena. That’s not to say seeing the competitors wasn’t a highlight, but we’ve had these same guys come over to Australia numerous times thanks to strong Bodybuilding ties here with the IFBB, so I guess again we were well groomed to seeing Pro Bodybuilders do their thing on stage.
On the internet live feed it sounds like there is no crowd cheering on at all, but I was amazed by how much crowd involvement there was, and how packed the Arena actually gets! The odd time you do hear the crowd in the live stream, it may only be picking up the screams from the front row which awkwardly makes it sound like there is only a classroom full of people watching. We can confirm that this certainly wasn’t that case – it was the rowdiest crowd we’ve ever seen at a Bodybuilding competition!
Not only were there cheers for people’s favourites, but also a surprising amount of booing – just as you would see at a more typically known sporting event in Australia, like Cricket or AFL. As booing occurs with a bad ref decision, such was the case when the Judges placings were announced. Phil Heath didn’t seem to be a favourite in this crowd. In fact, we were left with a near empty Arena as soon as he was announced winner, much like you would storm out if your team loses.
The experience at the Olympia was the closest I have ever seen a bodybuilding competition to a more traditional sporting match because of it. Again, this was just another part the things you don’t see in the live feed at home. While some of the seating can have you situated in a part of the Arena where the competitors look like ants, there are multiple extremely high quality large screens that you would prefer to watch off anyway. If you are reading this and planning to go, don’t sweat too much on the ‘cheaper’ tickets – we can assure you that you’ll still get a great experience from anywhere in the Arena.
With the main Olympia events done and dusted, we were on day 4 of our 8 day trip.
In between work commitments, Luke and I had a list of things we had researched on what we would like to do while in America. I know I was personally more excited about visiting some cheap clothing outlets and famous restaurants and food outlets, and had constructed quite a long list of well-known places to visit. These were either places I had seen on TV, or places people always seem to talk about when they come back from a US trip. I was also getting tipped off by the locals on more of the secret eateries, so I was also rather curious to give these places a test too. The list I accomplished of artery clogging goodness was long. I actually visited up to 3 places on my list per day in order to get through them all! I actually found that it was one of the best ways to see the whole of Vegas as you were forced to travel to many different parts of city in order to get to their location.
We won’t bore you with the full list of places as it mainly consisted of great burgers, but one thing I will say is this, while there are many more ways to get your arteries clogged in the US, the burgers I was eating aren’t anywhere near the standard and quality you can’t get in Sydney, especially in the past 2 years. We’re very much following on the tail of the US when it comes to being able to get a big calorie hit with the portion size to go with it, but American style food places are popping up everywhere here, so while it was great to do it American style, you can now get most American food right here in Australia done the same way (if not better).
Some highlights for the ‘Foodies’ out there reading this was the Heart Attack Grill. Catching a cab to this place forced me in to a different section of Las Vegas called “Downtown Las Vegas” which I was glad to come across. It was quite a step down from “the strip” but still had the same beautiful light show display. We’d say that the Heart Attack Grill is more of a novelty you would do while visiting. They’ve got the world record burger for the most amount of calories here, the “Octuple Bypass Burger” with the option of 40 bacon slices added. This is 8 beef patties with the lot in between them. A true tower. I made sure I still did my part in giving myself a heart attack by ordering a ‘baby’ Triple Bypass Burger. There is one rule here though – don’t be a tough guy ordering the biggest and not be able to finish it! There’s a serious wooden spanking by the “Nurses” (waitresses) in the middle of the restaurant if you leave any of your meal behind. Seriously, they don’t hold back. I had some serious nerves come on when I saw my burger. What pushed me to finish it was what I had witnessed happen to another customer after he couldn’t finish his. I see around me everyone else is playing it safe with a Single Bypass Burger. Come on though, you can’t come here and order a single. You have to be a part of it all. Another thing to note is that if you weigh over 350lbs, you are allowed to eat here for free everyday!
Another highlight was a place made very popular by “Man vs Food.” If you youtube his Las Vegas episode, you’ll see he visits the Hot N Juicy Crawfish. This venue again took me to whole different part of Vegas, down near Chinatown – a place that I would not have experienced if I hadn’t put it on my bucket list. I have some great memories here. Check out the gallery for some more pics of other places we visited, as there are far too many to mention in one blog post!
Having been a fan of Military type gaming and movies, Luke was looking forward to experiencing America’s Second Amendment at a shooting range with an endless choice of machinery to fire in a safe environment. The recoil of the machinery he was holding in this picture had his shoulder bruised for days after!
One thing I know I am going to suffer from, is a case of some serious Las Vegas F-O-M-O!
What’s happening on the strip right this moment?
Have any of the bright signs changed?
Has any new lighting been added?
Which new and interesting character would I have met and spoke to if I was walking down the strip right now?
There was always someone that made your night.
To wrap up, it’s the scenery I think I’ll miss the most. I could walk up and down that Strip, watch the light display and just people watch for hours!
I’ve been a strong loyal Aussie always saying we live in the best country in the world, and we sure do. But there’s something about Vegas that pulls you in and never wants to make you leave. It’s beautiful.
We hope you enjoy some of our pics of the main strip to help try showcase what we experienced on our trip. As you will always hear from anyone returning from Vegas trying to explain it, “you have to be there to understand.”
I understand now.
Here we are, back from our trip 5 months after that original email, and I am left feeling very grateful, well-traveled, wiser, and proud, thanks to the best management team any employee could ask for!
Thanks Jess and Ben, it was an experience both Luke and I will never forget!