The Arnold Classic “Globalization” — Exclusive Interview With Arnold Schwarzenegger
By Shawn Ray
Arnold Schwarzenegger turned 64 this past July 30th, and is now focusing on his next business venture that has a lot more than just bodybuilders excited about their futures— sponsors, athletes, vendors and fans worldwide are also jumping for joy as Arnold has his sights on putting the Arnold Classic Weekend/EXPO and Festival on every continent! I spoke with the former governor of the state of California and seven-time Mr. Olympia Winner recently to get his thoughts on why he is making a move to go global with the Arnold Classic Weekend— which begins this year in Madrid, Spain on October 7th, 2011.
Arnold Schwarzenegger began his journey into bodybuilding while still a teenager back in his hometown of Graz, Austria. At the tender age of 20, Arnold found himself the youngest winner of the first of three Mr. Universe titles— before coming to California to conquer one of his two dreams of being the best bodybuilder in the world by way of becoming Mr. Olympia. In 1970, that dream would be fulfilled with six more Mr. Olympia titles before he retired in 1980 as the greatest bodybuilder of all time!
Part II of his dream was to become a Hollywood film star, which in hindsight is almost an understatement to describe what Arnold accomplished on the big screen and at the box office with smash hits such as “Stay Hungry,” “Pumping Iron,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Predator,” “Terminator,” “Raw Deal,” “Commando,” “Total Recall,” “True Lies,” “Collateral Damage” and “Batman & Robin” to name a few. Arnold was recognized early in his acting career for “Stay Hungry,” for which he won a Golden Globe Award in 1977 for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture.
The 1970s were filled with winning bodybuilding titles and breaking into Hollywood.
The 1980s were filled with marriage, kids and movies. By the time the 1990s arrived, Arnold was promoting his second Arnold Classic and moving toward a career in politics— first by being appointed Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by President George H. W. Bush, and then serving as Chairman of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Governor Pete Wilson.
When we entered the 21st century, it was clear Arnold had political aspirations as a Republican early on— for which he would be rewarded by the voters of the State of California in 2003, when the people elected him Governor. Arnold left the Governor’s office in 2010, but what makes his accomplishments all the more amazing is that during and throughout his movie and political career—along with his business partner, Jim Lorimer— Arnold took the Arnold Classic Weekend that originated in Columbus, Ohio back in 1989 and developed it into the sport’s second longest-running contest to date— and the largest of its kind in the world!
Twenty-three years ago, Arnold and Jim personally invited some 25 professional male and female bodybuilders to compete in front of approximately 3,000 fans, where the winner walked away with $55,000 in first-place prize money.
Over the course of the ensuing years, this contest would become known worldwide and blossom into what is now called the Arnold Sports Festival. In 2010 the Arnold Sports Festival, which changed its name from the Arnold Classic in 2008, hosted more than 44 sports and events, including 12 Olympic sports, 18,000 athletes and over 200,000 spectators that descend upon Columbus over a four-day period!
Every year, Arnold and Jim play hosts to sports such as fencing, karate, powerlifting, Strongman competition, cheerleading, Bikini, Fitness, Figure and even a 5K Marathon race. The first-place prize is now $140,000 plus a $30,000 custom-crafted watch and a $10,000 Best Poser Award.
This October 7th & 8th, Arnold, Jim and their crew will join forces with IFBB President, Rafael Santonja to expand the Arnold Classic Weekend to Spain— in their first step toward what Arnold called “globalization” of the Arnold Classic.
Here is what Arnold had to say about his upcoming venture into the European market, before trying to conquer the world.
SR: What is the goal of trying to move this huge weekend anywhere other than Columbus, where it has been a smashing success for the last 22 years?
Arnold: Our goal, simply, is to let everyone know I would never turn my back on the sport. Our ultimate goal is to get into the Olympics by organizing and promoting health and fitness on a global scale. We knew the Arnold Classic would be a success; we always delivered more than we promised and the fans have continued to support us as a result of that. This idea came out of supply and demand— this is what the fans and athletes want, and our team is capable of bringing it to them in the same way we have delivered each year in Columbus.
SR: Why Spain? Are you afraid of losing quality or control of your brand?
Arnold: IFBB President Rafael Santonja is the promoter, and more than capable of handling a show of this type. It’s not like he is a new partner or promoter. He is well versed in the sport and business regarding vendors, athletes and sponsors. He is passionate with great vision, and is a very trustworthy businessman who has attended and watched our Arnold Classic for many years. We always have a concern of putting out a quality production, but our “team” will join him and his team to help with the layout and build the foundation for a smooth-running machine with a capable leader like Rafael. I feel we are in safe hands. Rafael has the support of both Jim and I along with Jim’s son, Bob Lorimer— who grew up in the gym business and has worked with us from day one in Columbus to ensure a great event for years to come. Our advisors will help with everything from the EXPO, stage production, sound, lighting, vendors and so on to help replicate what we already do very well in Columbus. I will be there personally along with Jim to ensure this contest is successful. Like anything you do the first year, we will iron out any issues that may arise but the second year, we should be well on our way and our team will ensure a great event.
SR: Do you think this Euro Arnold Classic will blossom into the “cash cow” that the one in Columbus has become over the years?
Arnold: Well, to be honest, I certainly don’t need the money, Jim doesn’t need the money, so what’s left? I mean, really— with one of my speeches I can make more money than I do at the Arnold Classic. We do it for the passion and our love of the sport. We are able to help so many people with this production emotionally, physically and financially. This kind of reward by far outweighs any financial aspect of this business. Because of this, I think we are able to produce such a wonderful show because the money aspect is put to the side and the human aspect can come into the picture. This is where we can make every bodybuilder and every athlete proud to be a part of this incredible weekend.
The idea here, Shawn, is to take the Arnold Classic to Spain, make it grow there and then we head over to Sydney, Australia, Moscow, Russia or maybe Beijing or Shanghai, China and do it there and so on. We will go very slow on this to make sure we do it right, and then we see what’s next after that. That’s really the idea.
SR: Why exactly did you get into bodybuilding again?
Arnold: Like a lot of guys, I got into the sport to become the best. But as you get older, you realize you want to share this with the rest of the world and so you want them to have the same experience as you did. Then you get kind of inspired to promote this idea around the world— and make everyone want to train and get in shape and to go and join a gym and feel great in the morning when they get up. So suddenly it makes you want to make the sport bigger by raising the cash prizes up, have competitions all over the world. And so that’s the thing I was going through, which is why Columbus is so successful because we want to inspire people! Make everyone feel good about what they are involved in. In my day, we trained all year for $750 or $1,000— a lot of guys didn’t get to feel as good as today’s bodybuilders do, which is why I am so thankful to all the magazines and sponsors who help support and promote the sport— creating more revenue for the athletes to enjoy it. Taking it oversees is another way of expanding it and promoting it, which I am certain will bring all of us tremendous joy and satisfaction including the writers, magazines, photographers, vendors and athletes.
SR: Do you think at some point beyond the 2012 Arnold Classic that you’ll be adding more countries to your ASC globalization process?
Arnold: My vision is not necessarily Jim’s vision, but I personally would like to see one Arnold Classic on every continent, with the Overall championship in Columbus, Ohio. All the winners will come together but we are taking our time— there is no rush, we have great hopes for Spain and then we will move forward from there.
SR: Do you see this expansion of the Arnold as something that will surpass the Mr. Olympia? Will you make this the premier event?
Arnold: It is not to my benefit to “blow the Mr. Olympia out of the water.” The most important thing is not to “devalue” the Mr. Olympia. We can shine regardless of the Mr. Olympia contests. People talk about the Sears Tower in Chicago, even though we have the Empire State Building in New York. We can co-exist as we have in the past. Division in our sport is what would kill it. We had that back when I was coming in the sport with the AAU and IFBB. My job is to protect the Mr. Olympia and support what they do. Why? Because I don’t see them as the enemy. I see them as allies, as friends. I hope that the bodybuilders can have five more competitions like that, because that’s what makes the sport exciting!
Can you imagine if we had this type of show in Australia, Africa, Europe and Asia or the Middle East? Can you imagine how great that is? All could be co-existing to build the sport and make it better for the fans and the athletes— providing more opportunities for our sponsors, vendors, magazines, and so on— helping to make the sport grow as a result of cooperation with everyone chipping in, building our sport from the inside out. This is what will make our sport great, so we have to help each other and keep it “inclusive.” We are now at a place where we can all be together and co-exist.
SR: Do you think at some point you’ll add more interesting prizes to the Overall awards like vacations, TVs, jewelry, and cars?
Arnold: Absolutely! We are always looking at ways to bring prizes and awards to the athletes like cars, Hummers, watches and so forth. Remember, we have an agreement that we don’t pay more in prizes than the Mr. Olympia— the way around that is giving away a Hummer, or $20,000-$50,000 watches and so forth so we continue to explore possibilities to keep the awards and prizes interesting for the athletes.
SR: We have new Women’s and Men’s Physique divisions; will these upcoming Arnold Classic contests be inclusive of those?
AS: Well in Columbus, we can handle it. However, this will be up to the individual promoters as to whether or not they can handle it. We won’t force up them more than they can handle. They will be instructed to include the events they can facilitate and structure according to their independent capabilities to ensure a “quality” production— not simply adding quantity to their production. I personally think Spain will be a much “leaner” competition with fewer events to start out but still plenty of things going on, much more than my first Arnold Classic in Columbus years ago.
SR: With more time on your hands now, are you finding yourself refocusing more on our sport, coming out of political office?
Arnold: Well, I kind of never took my eye off the ball when it comes to that. There’s enough time. I remember the saying, “The busier you are, the more you can take care of.” Even though I was very busy in Sacramento, I always made time to talk to Jim Lorimer and the bodybuilders who are building their bodies, and the organizing committees in Columbus. I also made time to continue speaking to Joe Weider, as I was doing work with his magazine and so forth. I was able to do all of these things because I am passionate about the sport and I would never turn my back on the sport. I do have extra time now and we will continue paying attention to the sport, but the ultimate goal is to try and get bodybuilding into the Olympics, get rid of the drugs and make it as legitimate a sport as some of the other sports are. In the meantime, we will promote and organize competitions, raise prize money, promote the magazines and the athletes to be successful as possible.
SR: Regarding Jim Lorimer, what can you say about a friend/partner like him?
Arnold: I cannot imagine any of this happening without Jim Lorimer. I think he is well put together, he is passionate and he is a wonderful partner. He has put together an extraordinary team in Columbus, without which none of this would be possible. His son Bob has been involved from the beginning as a kid. He will one day be able to smoothly take over, he is hands-on, he is in the gym business, he’s a smart guy and has learned from his father. These two are incredible human beings that share my same passion for the sport and what we are trying to build here.
I will be in Spain, I’m really looking forward to it, and I think Spain is more than ready for this only three weeks after the Mr. Olympia! I’d also like to give a special thank you to Steve Blechman for his continued years of support.
SR: Thank you, Arnold, and all the best.
Arnold and Jim Lorimer: Partners Who Share a Passion
Jim Lorimer was born on October 7th, 1926 in Bristol, PA. In 1949, Jim married Martha Jean Whittaker. They have three children and four grandchildren. In 1970, Jim and Arnold met for the first time after Arnold beat the reigning Mr. Olympia, Sergio Oliva in Columbus, Ohio. It was here the two men decided that after Arnold’s bodybuilding career was over, they’d go into business together based on how impressed Arnold was with the production of the Mr. World Contest.
In 1960, Jim was named “Man of the Year” in Worthington, Ohio— a suburb just outside of Columbus. He was also named one of the “Top Ten Men of the Year” in Columbus and one of the “Top Three Physical Fitness Leaders” in the United States!
Jim served as a member of the American Bar Association. He was Mayor from 1996 to present. In 2002, Jim received the Arnold Classic “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his contributions to sports, his community and his nation. Jim attended the IFBB International Congress annual general meeting on November 7, 2009 in Doha, Qatar when 75 countries in attendance unanimously approved his nomination as IFBB Patron. Jim has been active in the IFBB for more than 30 years.
Arnold Classic Europe
October 7-9, 2011
• Two IFBB Pro League events— Men’s Bodybuilding and Women’s Fitness
• A full lineup of amateur events: Men’s Bodybuilding, Classic Bodybuilding, Masters Bodybuilding, Women’s Bodybuilding, Fitness, Body Fitness, Bikini and Teen Competitions.
• Festival will include: 5K Run, Fencing, Olympic Wrestling, Karate, Wheelchair Basketball (Paralympics), Kickboxing, Arm Wrestling and Strongman events.
For more information, please visit www.arnoldclassicfestival.com/spain and www.arnoldclassiceurope.com