Welcome, Arnoldites!

Or perhaps it’s Arnoldians.  Or Arnoldavians.

IMG_0630Whatever!  This is the weekend when the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival — known to Columbus residents simply as The Arnold — comes to town, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.  It’s also the weekend when every male who works in downtown Columbus feels like the sickliest, flabbiest, most out of shape girly man imaginable.  That’s because this is the weekend we’re regularly rubbing elbows with impossibly buff, cut-up, bulging people who appear to be bursting with vitality, or something, out of every pore, hyperflexed muscle, and engorged blood vessel.

I have no statistics to prove this, but I’m guessing that, next to New Year’s Day, the Monday after The Arnold sees more Columbus people sign up for gym memberships than happens on any other day of the year.

Even though the weekend of The Arnold makes most of us feel undisciplined and physically inadequate, we welcome it just the same.  It’s always one of Columbus’ top tourism weekends of the year.

When The Arnold Comes To Town

It’s the weekend of the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Those of us who live in Columbus love the Arnold. It brings huge numbers of huge people to our town, where they spend money, have a fine time, and block out the sun whenever they walk past you.

The realization that this year’s Arnold is upon us moved me to verse:

The Arnold’s here! The Arnold’s here!
The event for which we’re down
We’re always happy in C-bus
When the Arnold comes to town.

In hotels, restaurants and gyms
You’ll see nary a frown
Our businesses love the weekend
When the Arnold comes to town.

The beefy guys and cut-up gals
Use so much oil they could drown
They’re orange and lubed and bulging
When the Arnold comes to town.

Then there’s the stud for whom it’s named
A man of great renown
He’s like our city’s mayor
When the Arnold comes to town.

And when it ends, in every sport,
A winner wears a crown
But we’re the real winner
When the Arnold comes to town.

Good luck to all of the Arnold contestants and their families. We’re glad you’re here, we know you’ll have a wonderful time, and we hope you’ll come back next year.

The Never-Old Arnold

It’s time for the Arnold Classic here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and it’s better than ever.

“The Arnold” is one of Columbus’ favorite events.  It brings a huge number of people to town, fills the hotels and the gyms and the workout facilities to capacity, and helps to fill our tax coffers, too.  It also gives us our annual glimpse into the fascinating world of bodybuilding, extreme fitness, and other unusual sports and activities and the dedicated people who compete in the various competitions.

You know it’s about time for the Arnold when you begin to see Arnold himself on commercials for a local car dealership.  You know that the Arnold is actually here when you can’t buy a can of spray-on tan within a 100-mile radius.  You know the Arnold is here when the airport is packed with bulging humans of both species wearing ultra-tight clothing and sporting faces with that kind of lean, rawboned look you normally see on cowboys who’ve spent the last few months huddled in a cabin while tending the herd on the northern range.  You know the Arnold is here when, on your drive downtown, you see large clusters of people heading purposefully to and from the many different Arnold venues, usually carrying massive bags of product they’ve purchased at the exposition booths.

Welcome to Columbus, Arnoldnauts!  We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you have a bulging good time at this year’s Classic.

The Arnold At The Arnold

Columbus has a new statue, and it’s a whopper.

Yesterday — with the Arnold Sports Festival in full swing — the City dedicated this colossal rendering of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  It’s located outside the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, where many of the Arnold events are held, just across the river from downtown Columbus.

The statue is a depiction of Arnold in his full Mr. Olympia glory — huge fists clenched, muscles bulging, rope-like veins popping everywhere, face set in impassive concentration, in the pose that Arnold made famous.  It is somewhat larger than life, although still smaller than the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of City Hall.  I suppose that’s only appropriate, although if you took a vote of the people who are in Columbus right now, Arnold would easily outpoll Chris for the top spot in the Most Titanic Figure contest.

The statue has a pretty good likeness of Arnold’s face, which is why it inevitably brings to mind — uncomfortably, in my book — the Terminator movies.  I look at the statue and expect the metallic Arnold to turn his head slowly, focus with a red mechanical eye, then step off the pedestal and begin slaughtering the masses in his search for Sarah Connor.

Bulging Biceps And Bulging Bags

The Arnold Sports Festival is back in town this weekend.  Every year, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite event gets bigger, and better, and packs even more people into various Columbus venues.

Today the Bus-Riding Conservative and I walked down at lunch to check out the Arnold.  There were lots of people on the streets — many of them huge and musclebound — and the crowds got thicker as we got closer to the Convention Center.  Inside the Center, throngs of people were streaming into various rooms, each of which had its own focus.  We stopped by the Fencing room, the Cross-Fit room, and the Box, Martial Arts, and Grappling room.  (How could you pass up a room featuring “grappling”?)  The latter was packed with vendor booths, and they all seemed to be doing a brisk business.  Many people inside were carrying huge bags of product.

The Arnold is great for the Columbus economy; it brings in visitors from the four corners of the globe and fills our hotels, restaurants, and stores.  But it also seems like a pretty good place to rent space if you are selling exercise clothing, nutritional supplements, bodybuilding products, and other health and exercise goods.  The people who come to the Arnold are serious about their interests, and they are willing to put their money where their biceps are.

The Normal Rules Do Not Apply — Until They Do

We hear about the Anthony Weiners and Dominique Strauss-Kahns, the John Edwardes  and Arnold Schwarzeneggers, the Bernie Madoffs and stud athletes and CEOs who break the rules or break the laws, and we shake our heads and wonder:  How could they be so reckless and brazen?

I suspect that part of the reason is that such people simply have not lived in the real world for a very long time.  Even if they began somewhere close to normal, for years their lives have been spent in a kind of protective cocoon, surrounded by aides and boosters and supporters and staffers and contributors.  People arrange their meals and social functions for them.  They really don’t need to carry cash anymore.  They get chauffered to events in limousines.  When they arrive at a restaurant, a guy whispers in their ear to let him know if there is any problem — any problem whatsoever! — and it will be taken care of immediately.  They fly first class, get to board when they want, and sip their complimentary champagne and try to ignore the stream of disheveled coach passengers who walk by.  Why shouldn’t these folks feel that they are different from normal people?  They live lives that are different from normal people.  And when they make little missteps, those missteps always — always! — get taken care of by members of their retinue.  The missed tests get retaken.  The tickets are torn up.  The meetings get delayed to accommodate their late arrival.  Their peccadilloes are forgiven through cash payments or side deals or secret agreements.

But then, at some point, a line gets crossed.  The police get called.  A send button is inadvertently hit and reckless private communications become public.  A person who is facing jail time and knows about the misdeeds decides to roll over and cooperate with the crusading prosecutor in hopes of getting a reduced sentence.  And then the mystified member of the elite finds that the cadre of fixers and sycophants aren’t there anymore, that their confident assurances, angry threats, wheedling, bullying, and lies, don’t work anymore.  Suddenly, they are being treated like the common people who, for years, they have seen only in passing or at carefully arranged events — and they realize, to their amazement, that those common people seem to be enjoying their travails.

I imagine that the one common emotion felt by every member of the mighty who has been brought low is . . . astonishment.

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous

Americans have always been interested in the lives of the rich and famous — particularly when the story involves their misdeeds.  The arrest for sexual assault of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now-former head of the International Monetary Fund, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s belated confession to fathering an out-of-wedlock child are just two of a long line of tawdry scandals that have captivated American audiences.

The sordid tale of Strauss-Kahn provides an especially rich trove of detail.  He was staying in a $3,000-a-night hotel room when the incident occurred.  He flies first-class on Air France whenever he wants.  He jets around the world, passing judgment on the economies of sovereign nations and spending other people’s money.  He’s French, and a Socialist.  And, according to the hotel housekeeper who is his accuser, when she entered what she thought was an empty room he burst out of the bathroom like some Gallic satyr, assaulted her, and engaged in forced sexual contact.  His apparent defense is that the encounter was consensual.  And, to complete the required story line, his resignation statement professes his innocence but says he is giving up his post for the good of his wife, whom he loves “more than anything,” and the IMF.

One point that distinguishes the Strauss-Kahn tale from the others is that he is French, and therefore people from both sides of the Atlantic are reacting to his arrest.  Initially, many in France seemed to blame his arrest on American prudishness and to complain that he wasn’t being treated in a deferential way that acknowledged his lofty position in the world.  More recently, the prevailing view seems to be shifting away from reflexive sympathy for Strauss-Kahn having to deal with the unsophisticated, benighted Americans to a realization that the conduct of which he is being accused is, in fact, criminal and is properly treated as such.  If this incident causes the French to be a bit more concerned about sexual assault crimes, and a bit less willing to give a pass to the misconduct of the high and mighty, that would be a good thing.

The Arnold Hits Downtown Columbus

The Arnold Sports Festival has returned to downtown Columbus, bigger and better than ever.  It is the one weekend each year where we pencil-necked, out-of-shape downtown office workers feel like we live in an oversized world of gigantic professional wrestlers who sport bulging biceps and barrel chests under tight-fitting clothing.

The Arnold, which runs through tomorrow, is a tremendous boon for Columbus and local businesses.  It is estimated that visitors to The Arnold will spend more than $42 million during their stay in Columbus.  It brings lots of visitors to town from all over the world, and it features events all day at five different venues in the area. Those of us who work in downtown Columbus can see the economic impact firsthand — increased car traffic, increased foot traffic, and lots of activity at hotels and restaurants.

Yesterday Richard, JV and I went to have lunch at the North Market — which is one block away from the Columbus Convention Center, the hub of The Arnold — and the area was jammed with cars and Arnold attendees.  As we left, we saw people lugging huge sacks of product they had purchased from the many retail stalls at The Arnold. I have to believe that, if you are a business selling fitness-related products, The Arnold is the highlight of the year.  The attendees are people who are really serious about body-building, or fencing, or kick-boxing, and they will spend liberally in pursuit of their passion.  We Columbusites welcome them all.

Return Of The Arnold

Russ Rosler and I went to the North Market for lunch yesterday, and as we eating our excellent cassoulet we suddenly realized that everyone eating at the tables around us was big — with bulging biceps and tight shirts and thick necks.  It was as if the normal schlubs eating at the North Market had been replaced with a bunch of weightlifters.  We both quickly realized that “the Arnold” must be back in town, and indeed it is.  Of course, the real name of the event is the The Arnold Sports Festival, and as usual it offers an enormous number of events, including bodybuilding competitions, “strong man” contests, powerlifting, mixed martial arts, arm wrestling, and just about any kind of fitness or health-related activity you can imagine.  Dozens of exhibitors also offer all kinds of products that relate to health, fitness, and looking buff.

When you walk among the attendees at the Arnold you tend to feel like a puny wuss.  It is a bit dispiriting, but the pudgy, year-long residents of Columbus gladly put up with a few days of feeling like pencil-necked geeks because the Arnold pumps — and I use that term advisedly — tens of millions of tourism dollars into the tills of the City’s hotels, restaurants, and other businesses and into the City’s tax coffers, too.

From what Russ and I saw yesterday, it looks like the Festival has had a good turnout despite the economy.  I hope so, because it is a great event for Columbus.

The Arnold

This weekend The Arnold is back in town. Every year Columbus hosts “The Arnold,” which is the local nickname for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival. Some years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger won a Mr. Olympic or Mr. Universe bodybuilding title — or maybe both — here in Columbus, and ever since the people of Columbus have been popular with him and he has been popular with the people of Columbus. Indeed, Republican presidential candidates often have called on him to deliver stump speeches in Columbus, a key part of “Battleground Ohio,” as campaigns have come down to the wire, and he has always delivered big, enthusiastic crowds.

The Arnold started, I think, as pretty much a bodybuilding and fitness show, but it has grown and grown over the years. Thousands of contestants, participants, and observers, as well as hundreds of exhibitors of training devices, power drinks, and other items, come to our community every year for The Arnold. It now features arm-wrestling, power-lifting, archery, wrestling, “strong man” competitions, and many other events and contests.

The heart of The Arnold, though, remains mens’ and womens’ bodybuilding events. It is amazing when you see the competitors in those events walking around downtown Columbus or at the airport. Although their bodies look freakish (to me, at least) you can’t help but be impressed by the commitment that these people have shown. How much lifting, and toning, and oiling, and tanning have these people done to get to their current body morphs? And, where does someone with thighs that are bigger than their waistlines buy clothes, anyway?