When the young Austrian with the thick accent told Jim Lorimer he’d be back to start a bodybuilding competition in Columbus, Lorimer scoffed: “I was like, ‘Yeah, sure you will.’”

  It was 1970, and Lorimer was the mayor of Worthington. He was also tasked to run the inaugural “Mr. World” bodybuilding competition at Veterans Memorial, and the funny-sounding Austrian had taken first place as cameras from ABC’s Wide World of Sports rolled at the sold out event, giving needed exposure to the city.
  “After the contest was over,” recalls Lorimer, “the (young Austrian) told me, ‘This is the best event I have ever been in. When I am done competing in the sport I want to go into the promotion of the sport, and I am going to come back to Columbus to start an event and I want you to be my partner.’”
  Little did Lorimer know of how unfailing the words of the 23-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger would be. And this was long before Schwarzenegger played the role of a time-traveling cyborg programmed to terminate. He was going to be back.
  But when it comes to reality, those who know him, wholeheartedly agree, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man of the people. A prolific goal-setter who doesn’t forget those who helped him to greatness, says Lorimer, who has partnered with Schwarzenegger to run the Arnold Sports Festival since 1989 and before this when it was strictly a bodybuilding competition.
  Nearly half a century later the “Arnold” is the largest multi-sports event in nation, if not the world. Seriously, as far as the number of athletes and different sports is concerned, this distinct Columbus event beats them all, even the Olympics.
  “Each year since 1989 we have added sports, and after 27 years we have the largest multi-sports event in the world,” says Lorimer. “The Olympic Games in London had 10,000 athletes and 36 sports. The Arnold Sports Festival this year will have 18,000 athletes from over 80 nations competing in 50 sports and events. That is almost double the size of the Olympic Games.”
  The Arnold is spreading across the planet. Arnold Sports Festivals will be held on four continents this year, says Lorimer, and on six continents in 2016.
  Schwarzenegger was raised strict Roman Catholic, and believed his parents were punishing him into conformity, so he set his sights on America. The immigrant believed only this nation could propel him to the greatness he dreamed of. The rest is history. And in some ways the growth of the Arnold Sports Festival reflects the story of its namesake.
  “The guy has had a fantastic career. Governor of the state of California for two terms, he’s re-started his film career, and now he’s traveling the world addressing environmental issues,” said Lorimer.
  For this year’s Arnold in Columbus, most of the action has been moved to the fairgrounds and the Ohio Expo Center, as Veterans Memorial withers in the face of demolition and fades into history.
  However, all professional and amateur bodybuilding shows will be held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
  Another completely new event within the event has been added for this year: the Kids’ Fitness Expo in the Ohio Expo Center’s Bricker Building which will host introductory training areas for 15 different sports, like soccer, where members of the Columbus Crew will be on hand. The Fitness Expo, the largest of its kind in the US, will be in its usual space at the convention center.
  The Arnold Sports Festival begins this Thursday (March 5th) and runs through Sunday (March 8th). A full listing of events can be found at ArnoldsSportsFestival.com.
  But as the event has grown from its days at Veterans Memorial, the Arnold has stuck to its roots