Monday, October 20, 2008

Bodybuilding pioneer dies at 85

A legend for helping to turn bodybuilding into a worldwide fitness phenomenon, Ben Weider died overnight in a Montreal hospital, it was announced Saturday.

He was 85.

Weider and his older brother Joe founded the International Federation of Body Building in 1940, and spent six decades promoting the sport once "reviled" as a "fringe activity," according to a statement by Weider Health and Fitness.

"Beginning in 1947, Ben travelled the world, promoting his sport, organizing exhibitions and competitive events," it said.

"At the height of Cold War tensions, he courted sports officials of militantly anti-Western regimes in the then-Soviet Union and Communist China," it added.

The brothers set up fitness centers, sold weight-lifting equipment and promoted nutritional supplements for body builders.

Ben Weider also pushed to have body-building included in the Olympics, but it achieved only provisional status in 1998.

For his efforts, Weider was awarded in 1975 the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honor, and later became an officer of the order.

He also co-authored one of the best selling history books about Napolean, earning him the French Legion of Honor for his investigative work into the French leader's death.

Next week, a collection of his Napoleonic artifacts are to be unveiled in a permanent gallery at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Weider's funeral will be held Monday in Montreal.

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