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Arnold Sports Festival Is Celebrating 31 Years this Year

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What began as a one-day professional bodybuilding competition in Columbus, Ohio in 1989 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 Arnold Sports Festival story 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.

jim lorimer with arnold schwarzenegger
Jim Lorimer with Arnold Schwarzenegger

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 2019, more than 80 sports and events featuring more than 22,000 athletes will be held at the annual celebration of health and fitness as the nation’s largest multi-sport festival celebrates its 31st Anniversary.

The sports and events feature 17 Olympic sports, nine IFBB Pro League contests, the Arnold Amateur NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Bikini & Physique Championships and the Arnold Strongman Classic.

The Arnold Sports Festival began expanding 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.

The Arnold Sports Festival, already the largest multi-sport event in the world, will grow even larger this year when an estimated 22,000 athletes from 80 nations compete in a record 80 sports and events from February 28-March 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

Headlining the nation’s largest multi-sport festival are professional bodybuilding and strongman competitions with the most well-built and strongest athletes in the world.

These premier physique and strongman competitions are featured daily at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The 31st Arnold Classic will be held at Battelle Grand on Saturday, March 2, along with the Bikini International, Arnold Men’s Physique and Arnold Strongman Classic Finals.

Other IFBB Pro League events on the weekend include Fitness, Figure, Classic Physique,

Women’s Physique and Wheelchair. The Arnold Amateur NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Bikini & Physique Championships will be held at the Battelle Grand and Arnold Fitness EXPO from Thursday, February 28 through Saturday, March 2 and is expected to attract more than 700 athletes. New events in 2019 include Armlifting,

Arnold Education, Foosball, Futsal, High School Weightlifting, Ninja Warrior, Speed Cubing and the Viking Dash Trail Runs.

Sports and events at the Ohio Expo Center in 2019 include Arnold SportsWorld Kids & Teens EXPO, baton twirling, pro and amateur boxing, cheerleading & dance, futsal, gymnastics, martial arts and pickleball.

The Arnold SportsWorld Kids & Teens EXPO is helping kids be more active. Attendees can try more than 20 sports, many led by Central Ohio professional sports teams.

Featured events include a talent competition and teen fitness pageant. This wall-to-wall fun event for families is free for kids 14 and under at the Ohio Expo Center’s Bricker Building on Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3.

The 2019 Arnold Fitness EXPO will be held March 1-3 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and feature more than 1,000 booths of the latest in sports equipment, apparel and nutrition and four stages that host unique, non-stop competitions and entertainment that combine to make the Arnold Fitness EXPO the heart of the Arnold Sports Festival.

Admission to the Arnold Fitness EXPO, most events at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Arnold SportsWorld Kids & Teens EXPO and all events at the Ohio Expo Center are included in the Daily EXPO Ticket ($20 each in advance, $25 at the door).

Tickets at the Ohio Expo Center are $20 at the door on event weekend. Children 14 and under are FREE. Parking at the Ohio Expo Center will be $10. FREE shuttles will run from the Ohio Expo Center to the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Friday, March 2 through Sunday, March 4. Gov.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer have co-produced the Arnold Sports Festival since 1989 when it debuted as a one-day bodybuilding competition known as the Arnold Classic.

The Arnold Sports Festival has grown over the years and is now a four-day festival that features more than 80 sports and events. “A Daily EXPO ticket affords a huge entertainment value for attendees to experience a great variety of sports and events,” Lorimer said. “We are very proud to provide the opportunity for athletes, a majority of them youth, to compete at the largest multi-sport festival in the world.”

2019 Arnold Classic Worldwide schedule:

Arnold Sports Festival USA, Columbus, Ohio, February 28 March 3, 2019

Arnold Sports Festival Australia, Melbourne, Australia, March 15-17, 2019

Arnold Sports Festival South America, São Paulo, Brasil, April 12-14, 2019

Arnold Classic Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 17-19, 2019

Arnold Classic Europe, Barcelona, Spain, September 20-22, 2019

The 2019 Arnold Sports Festival USA will feature more than 22,000 athletes from 80 nations competing in more than 80 sports and events, including IFBB Pro League events in men’s open bodybuilding, men’s classic physique, men’s physique, fitness, figure, bikini, women’s physique and pro wheelchair. The Arnold Amateur NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Bikini & Physique Championships will return for a 13th year with more than 700 athletes from 70 nations.

Visit for more information on the Arnold Sports Festival USA and all other events on the 2019 Arnold Classic Worldwide schedule.

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