In the past 18 months, fans and long-time attendees of the annual Arnold Sports Festival have suffered several blows. In March 2020, the event was forced to ban most spectators because of COVID-19, and earlier this year the festival and weightlifting competition was cancelled.
Getting the Arnold Classic on track has been no easy feat.
Executive Director Brian Powers said the biggest challenge has been the unpredictability of COVID-19, which made figuring out what could and couldn’t be done a near-improbable forecast.
Even with circumstances constantly evolving, Powers said he and other organizers worked diligently to ensure another year wouldn’t go by before some facet of the nation’s largest multi-sport event would be held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
“We’re incredibly fortunate and excited about the opportunity to present the Arnold Classic competition,” Powers said. “Everyone from the athletes, to our employees and volunteers, worked incredibly hard to make this happen, and we can’t wait to show our fans the things we’ve worked on the last several months.”
The multi-sport event, founded by actor, bodybuilder, and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer in 1989, traditionally takes place in March and features the Arnold 5K, Arnold Fitness EXPO and other elements.
What to expect at the Arnold Classic
This year, the Arnold Classic will be the marquee event for a one-day celebration on Saturday, with defending champion William Bonac battling it out against some of the world’s greatest bodybuilders.
Joining Bonac will be champions of the Bikini International, Fitness International, and Classic Physique contests, who will try to uphold their titles and compete for a total of $412,000 in prize money. During the one-day event, bodybuilding legend Ronnie Coleman will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
To start off the event, Arnold Schwarzenegger will make an appearance at the Friday Night Showcase, which will take place at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Health measures in place
For those attending the event, John Page, general manager of the convention center, said a number of health and safety measures will be in place.
Along with the use of face masks per city regulations, air-filtration devices will be in use and over 200 hand sanitizers will be stationed around the center. High-touch areas such as escalator handrails will also be sterilized using UV light throughout the center.
“We’ve developed a true partnership with the Arnold Sports Festival event organizers over the years and we couldn’t be happier to welcome back the Arnold Classic and to host them safely this coming weekend,” Page said.
Livestreaming will be available
The 2021 Arnold Classic will also be live-streamed for those unable to attend the event in person.
“We have a huge audience of people from Brazil, India or the Middle East who watch the show or want to know what’s going on with the show, and to be able to bring what it’s like to sit in the hall in Columbus and watch bodybuilding’s greatest champion present the most prestigious invitational title to someone every year, not everyone’s going to get that experience, especially now,” Powers said. “So, to be able to do a real broadcast, which we haven’t been able to have since the late 1980s, is something we’re really excited about.”
Powers believes this element will always be a key component of the festival, as it ensures fans from all corners of the world can have a similar experience as those attending in person.
“The exciting part about that for me is that our event will never really sell out,” he said. “Even when we sell all our physical tickets, we’ll still have availability for fans to experience the classic from their homes or devices in ways they couldn’t have previously”.
“For those who are unable to attend in person this Saturday, they can be assured that the virtual experience will be robust and allow for maximum engagement,” Page said.
And looking ahead to next year, the 2022 Arnold Sports Festival — including the Arnold Fitness EXPO, Arnold Classic, Arnold Amateur Bodybuilding Championships — will return to the Greater Columbus Convention Center March 3-6, 2022.
If you attend The Arnold Sports Classic
The Arnold Sports Classic will take place in two sessions — 10 a.m. to noon for prejudging and 7 to 10 p.m. for finals — on Saturday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400 N. High St. General admission for the event costs $49 to $149, with VIP packages ranging from $199 to $499. Tickets for the Friday Night Showcase cost $30.
The Livestream will be available at arnoldsportsfestival.com, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday for prejudging of the fitness and bodybuilding competitions. The preshow for finals will start at 6:30 p.m. before the finals at 7 p.m.