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Vendors Head Home After Cancellation Of Arnold Fitness Expo

Product Delivered to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the 2020 Arnold Fitness Expo
Nicole Rasul
/
WOSU
Product Delivered to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the 2020 Arnold Fitness Expo

The cancellation of this week's Arnold Fitness Expo has vendors who anticipated marketing their products at the annual event returning home earlier than expected. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine and health officials announced that the Arnold Sports Festival's trade show would not take place as planned due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Organizers have also banned spectators for all competitive events other than the finals.

Dismantling a double-decker media tower inside the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Jim Hern called the Expo’s cancellation “devasting” and “heartbreaking." He pointed to pallets stacked with nutrition supplements intended for sale during this week's festivities.

“All of these samples that are out, this is product that people brought in hoping to launch their products,” Hern said. “That’s why the Expo is so popular. People come down here and get samples of things.” 

Hern is the creative director and events manager of Ricart Automative, a sponsor of the Arnold Sports Festival.

The event was scheduled in Columbus from March 5-8, but after new CDC guidance on mass gatherings has been scaled back significantly. The Arnold features 20,000 competititors from 80 nations, and attracts over 200,000 fans at more than 80 events around the city.

For Ben Williams, who arrived from the United Kingdom to compete as a bodybuilder, the lack of trade show and fewer spectators changes the experience for him. But he says he’s still thankful to be able to participate. 

“There was a couple of stalls that I did want to see because they do formalwear specifically for larger people. I’m not going to see them now," Williams said. "We won’t get the full experience, but again, we’ve come to compete and we’re still doing that.”

The Arnold is the largest multi-sport festival in the world. On Tuesday, Mayor Andrew Ginther said the event has a regional economic impact of $53 million.

All athletes from outside the U.S. will be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio yet, but Ohio health officials cautioned that the disease will likely spread to Ohio eventually.

Eleven deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the United States thus far, most of which are from Washington state. There are over 92,000 cases globally in more than 70 countries and territories.