On my flight from Phoenix to Columbus Tuesday, I looked around at my fellow passengers and noticed a lot of them were unusually bulky and appallingly fit.
The implication was inescapable: the annual Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival is back in town. And, without a conscious thought, I immediately sucked in my gut (at least, to the extent my aging, sagging frame permitted) and stuck my chin out in hopes that it would reduce the obvious wattles in the neck area. And as I left the plane after a long flight, and saw muscular men and women lugging their tote bags and wearing their ultra-tight clothing that accentuated the strain of every conceivable muscle that exists on the human body, I tried to walk especially straight and keep those glutes as tight was possible — which admittedly was still pretty flabby. By the time I got to my car I was sore all over.
That’s really the only downside of The Arnold for those of us who live in Columbus. It’s a great weekend for tourism in our city, the hotels and restaurants do a land-office business — don’t try to get a steak this weekend, for instance — and there are people taking shuttles and walking all over downtown. It’s one of the top tourism weekends for Ohio’s capital city.
But, in reality, most of us look pretty puny and paunchy compared to the contestants in The Arnold. That means it’s a gut-suck weekend, Columbusites!
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.
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.