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History of the Arnold Sports Festival

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2017 Arnold Sports Festival Preview

What began as a one-day professional bodybuilding competition in Columbus, Ohio nearly three decades ago has grown into the world’s largest multi-sport fitness weekend, with four days of sports competitions, demonstrations, seminars, entertainment and the latest fitness products. 

The story of the Arnold Sports Festival dates to 1970, when Columbus sports promoter Jim Lorimer invited a young Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger to Columbus to compete in the Mr. World contest that was accompanying that year’s World Weightlifting Championships.

Schwarzenegger won the contest, earned $1,000 and vowed to return to Columbus one day to partner with Lorimer and promote the sport of bodybuilding. After winning the Mr. Olympia contest every year between 1970-1975, Schwarzenegger was true to his word. Schwarzenegger and Lorimer promoted the Mr. Olympia contest in Columbus six times between 1976 and 1986 before founding the Arnold Classic in 1989.

When Schwarzenegger was appointed the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, he charged Lorimer to expand the scope of the Arnold Classic weekend to include other sports. Martial Arts and gymnastics were among the first added.

More events have been added annually and the weekend was renamed the Arnold Sports Festival in 2006.  In 2017, 70 sports and events will be held at the annual celebration of health and fitness. The sports and events feature 14 Olympic sports, eight IFBB Pro League contests, the Arnold Strongman Classic and the world famous Arnold Amateur Championships.

The Arnold Sports Festival began expanding to other countries in 2011 with the creation of Arnold Classic Europe, held in Spain. Arnold Classic Brasil debuted in 2013 and the first Arnold Classic Australia was held in 2015. Arnold Classic Africa in Johannesburg and Arnold Classic Asia in Hong Kong were held for the first time in 2016.