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Celebrating 35 Years Of Arnold Sports

What began as a one-day professional bodybuilding competition in Columbus, Ohio in 1989 has grown into the world’s largest multi-sport fitness festival, with four days of sports competitions, demonstrations, seminars, entertainment and the latest fitness products.

The Arnold Sports Festival story dates back 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 each year and the weekend was renamed the Arnold Sports Festival in 2006. In 2023, more than 50 sports and events featuring more than 15,000 athletes will be held at the annual celebration of health and fitness as the nation’s largest multi-sport festival celebrates its 35th Anniversary.

The weekend includes strength and Olympic sports, seven IFBB Pro League contests, the NPC Arnold Amateur Bodybuilding Championships and the Arnold Strongman Classic.

The Arnold Sports Festival expanded worldwide in 2011 with inaugural Arnold Classic Europe in Spain. Arnold Sports Festival South America debuted in 2013 and the first Arnold Sports Festival Australia was held in 2015. Arnold Sports Festival Africa in Johannesburg was held for the first time in 2016 and the first Arnold Sports Festival UK was held in 2021.

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