February 24, 2016

Arnold Sports Festival Rolls Into Columbus March 3

Nearly 70 sports and events. Some 20,000 athletes. Close to 200,000 spectators.

That only partly describes the citywide party that is the Arnold Sports Festival, which storms into Columbus March 3 and lasts through March 6.

In sheer numbers, the Arnold surpasses the Olympics, with more athletes than competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics combined. But the event means much more: Every year, an event that began with a bodybuilding competition in 1989 – which future actor and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won – now infuses the local economy with more than $51.4 million annually, according to the city’s marketing organization Experience Columbus.

“We are growing continually at a rate of 5 to 10 percent each year,” says Classic Productions President Bob Lorimer, whose company produces multisport festivals around the world. “Why? Once people go, they want to go back again. And we continue to add new sports and events.”

Over the years, the Arnold has blossomed into competitive opportunities for men, women and kids of nearly every taste and talent. In addition to fitness and strength events, today’s Arnold offers events such as chess and fencing as well as youth dance, jump rope, disc golf and talent competitions. A Kids Expo, inaugurated last year and held at the Ohio Fairgrounds, includes appearances by Columbus professional and college athletes.

New events for 2016 include a national pageant for young women, baton twirling and a triathlon.

Meanwhile, attendees will again find more than 900 booths at the Arnold Fitness Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Throughout the festival, namesake Schwarzenegger can be expected to make the rounds, visiting every event and interacting both with competitors and onlookers.

The city is all in, Lorimer says, with 1,000 volunteers fanning out to help and nearly every possible venue booked, including the entire Convention Center, the Fairgrounds and other locations around the city. Six, 64-passenger private coaches will continually shuttle spectators between downtown and the Fairgrounds.

“We have a lot of help from Port Columbus International Airport, taxi drivers and about 500 city ambassadors,” Lorimer says, “as well as from all branches of government, including local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. We’ve been doing this successfully for 28 years. I think that’s something that often isn’t appreciated enough. A lot of people have made this event what it is.”

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