The History of The Arnold Classic

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The Arnold Classic premier Competition
The Arnold Sports Festival is a yearly convention celebrating various branches of sports, primarily through bodybuilding and fitness competitions. Previously known as the Arnold Classic, it is named after the former professional body-builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The event is normally a four-day affair held every springtime in Columbus, Ohio, featuring a bodybuilding and fitness tournament and a three-day Fitness Expo.

It all started in 1970 when Worthington, Ohio Mayor Jim Lorimer was tasked to promote the World Weightlifting Championships in the neighboring town of Columbus. In able to attract a larger crowd, Lorimer decided to organize a Mr. World bodybuilding competition in conjunction with the weightlifting tournament. He then appealed to the most popular bodybuilding personages to participate in the contest, offering a cash prize of $500 to the winner. He felt it was imperative to include Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, then at 23 years of age, was rapidly growing in popularity within the bodybuilding world.

The History of The Arnold Classic
The History of The Arnold Classic

Arnold Says No

Schwarzenegger had initially declined the invitation, since he would be in London that same weekend competing in the Mr. Universe contest. He had already won the Mr. Universe pro title for three consecutive years and was hoping to triumph for a fourth. Lorimer, however, couldn’t take no for an answer. He thus arranged transportation to bring Schwarzenegger from London to Columbus right after the Mr. Universe contest.

It was a momentous weekend for Schwarzenegger, as he won first place in the Mr. Universe competition in London, as well as the Mr. World contest in Ohio. His victory in the latter was featured in ABC’s Wide World of Sports, making him known to an international audience. It was also at that time when he formed a friendship with the event organizer, Jim Lorimer.

As he thanked Lorimer for the invitation, Schwarzenegger mentioned that he intended to sponsor professional tournaments after he retired from bodybuilding. He proposed a partnership, in which he planned to raise prize money while Lorimer took care of the logistics.

Their plan came to fruition in 1975. After winning Mr. Olympia six years in a row, Schwarzenegger retired from his sport. The following year, he and Lorimer worked together on the Mr. Olympia competition in Columbus, Ohio, and cemented an enduring partnership.

Their team held a Mr. Olympia event for the succeeding years, each time successfully raising money and acquiring television coverage. They were noted to change bodybuilding history: they were the first to invite the public to the prejudging, which was formerly a private affair involving only contestants, officials and media. They also brought the Mr. Olympia competition to several major cities throughout the world. In 1979, they even held a Mr. Universe World Championship and a Mr. Olympia in the same weekend. Nonetheless, their momentum was halted in 1982 when Arnold Schwarzenegger made time for his film career.

They teamed up again in 1986 for the Pro World Championships and the Mr. Olympia competition. They went on to organize the Pro World Championships each spring in Columbus, until they agreed to create their own bodybuilding event.

The Arnold Classic Is Born

In 1989, the Arnold Classic was born. By this time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the most recognizable name bodybuilding, on top of being a renowned movie star. The Arnold Classic was propelled in part by his growing celebrity status, and has since then become the largest multidisciplinary sporting event in America.

Now into its twenty-fifth year, the Arnold Sports Festival holds competitions for over 45 events, even 12 Olympic sports. Aside from weightlifting and bodybuilding tournaments for men, it now includes women’s divisions. It also holds competitions for power lifting, wrestling, martial arts, boxing, skateboarding, fencing, table tennis, gymnastics, cheerleading, figure skating, yoga, archery and other sports. One of its most popular events however, is the Arnold Strongman Classic, which celebrates physical strength. In recent history, the Arnold Classic now the Arnold Sports Festival attracts over 18,000 competitors yearly, as well as over 175,000 visitors to the Arnold Fitness Expo.


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