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Sports

A Scaled Down Arnold Classic Returns Saturday

Arnold Classic 2021
Scott Good
/
WOSU
A staff member at the Greater Columbus Convention Center brings several hand sanitizing stations into the main event room for the 2021 Arnold Classic.

The Arnold Classic returns to Columbus this weekend for the first time in a year -and-a half.

It will be a scaled-down Arnold Classic. Competition events will take place on one day, on Saturday, and will crown champions from only about 40 competitors in four categories.

Event Director Brent LaLonde said this weekend, event co-founder and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to at least have the marquee bodybuilding events take place.

“It was very important to Governor Schwarzenegger to have an event in 2021 and at minimum, crown champions in the professional bodybuilding events, the Arnold Classic, that the event is known for, that the event grew out of in 1989,” LaLonde said.

With the influx of over 20,000 athletes and hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world, the full Arnold Sports Festival brought tens of millions of dollars to Columbus every year before the pandemic. The full festival was canceled this past spring and rescheduled to take place in March of next year.

George Farah of upstate New York is a bodybuilding coach who has been bringing teams to the event for 20 years. In 13 of those years, he said his athletes won Arnold Classic events. Farah said before the pandemic, the event would bring a major lift to the Columbus economy.

"We have the venue, we have so many vendors here bringing money to the city, you know, so many people,” Farah said. “And it's really, it's a hit. It's really, really sad what's going on. Coronavirus, man, messed the whole world up."

The festival was the first event of its size in the country that was significantly scaled back or canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020, and LaLonde said that was a shock to everyone involved. The challenge this year has been not knowing how the pandemic would evolve.

“The difficult thing for 2021 has just been the unknown of the planning process because you don’t know what’s going to happen with the pandemic,” he said. “We thought we were out of it spring, summer. It kind of came back."

The four events on Saturday will be Men’s Open Bodybuilding, Arnold Classic Physique, Fitness International and Bikini International. Prejudging begins Saturday at 10 a.m., followed by finals at 7 p.m. Schwarzenegger made appearance Friday evening for a roundtable discussion featuring past winners.

All events take place at the Columbus Convention Center and are open to the public. Masks are required. Tickets can be purchased on-site or at ArnoldSportsFestival.com.