Mansfield Grad Helps Arnold Fitness Event Go Global By Jon Spencer Mansfield News Journal
COLUMBUS — For four days, he’ll have a bigger presence in Columbus than Urban Meyer.
His statue, to be unveiled this weekend in the capital city, will dwarf the one of Woody Hayes on Ohio State’s campus.
He’s won more championships — most of them world titles — than Jim Tressel.
In his heyday, bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger could make his biceps as plump as footballs. No longer California’s movie star governor, he’s still a giant among the men and women who flex and pose and swim in tanning lotion. He’s still the global celebrity whose name graces the largest multi-sports event in the nation.
This is the week when talk of Urban renewal and spring games and kicking Michigan’s fanny is set aside to welcome The Terminator, The Austrian Oak, the man simply known to devotees as Ah-nuld.
The Arnold Sports Festival, which started modestly as the Arnold Classic bodybuilding show in 1989, has grown to feature 45 sports and events — including 11 Olympic sports — spread out over six Columbus venues Thursday through Sunday.
More than 150,000 fans and 18,000 athletes will converge on the city, with the local economy expected to rake in more than $4 million.
It’s the second biggest convention in Columbus, behind the All-American Quarterhorse Congress at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. That attracts 600,000 attendees — but it takes place over three months, not four days.
“When Arnold walks through a room (at the festival), you can’t describe it,” said Brent LaLonde, the event’s director of communications and marketing. “But as big as he is here, he’s even bigger in Europe. The fans there are just rabid.”
LaLonde, a 1986 Madison Comprehensive High School graduate, would know. He was in Madrid, Spain, last October for the inaugural Arnold Classic Europe. It was a mini-version of the Columbus festival, featuring pro competition in men’s bodybuilding and women’s fitness, along with 10 exhibition events. An estimated 50,000 fans attended, many hoping to catch a glimpse of Schwarzenegger.
“I had never been to Europe. … I’d been to Loudonville,” LaLonde joked. “Now I’m a seasoned
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- Bob Taft,
Former Governor of the State of Ohio