A bodybuilding competition sponsored by Arnold Schwarzenegger turned into a battle of wills with the governor of Ohio, who expressed concerns about potentially exposing crowds to the coronavirus.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther sent the former California governor/actor and his partner a letter stating they reached an agreement Tuesday to go forward with the event provided there were no spectators. Event organizers, however, issued tickets, passes and other admittance items to the Arnold Sports Festival, which runs Thursday until Sunday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. This event is the world’s largest multisport festival, according to its website.
Just before the doors opened Thursday – at the behest of an Order by the Director of the Ohio Department of Health – the festival announced it would close the expo and ban the public due to coronavirus fears. Only parents and guardians will be allowed admission to watch their children compete.
The state’s order is here.
On Wednesday night, the event tweeted that due to coronavirus concerns the expo would remain closed but fans could attend in addition to family, WJW reported.
Due to Coronavirus concerns and to protect public health, we have closed the Arnold Fitness EXPO. But sports will continue and friends, family, and fans are welcome to watch their favorite athletes compete.
Updated Schedule: https://t.co/wTnOm0wMFZ
— ArnoldSports (@ArnoldSports) March 5, 2020
On Tuesday, the state had said spectators would be barred.
The DeWine-Ginther letter said:
On Tuesday, we all understood what the agreement was between the Arnold Sports Festival, the city of Columbus, and the state of Ohio about how the competition would proceed. Athletes would continue to compete. Parents would be able to watch their children compete. Trainers, coaches, and officials running the competition would play their part. Spectators would be able to attend certain single ticketed events, such as the Arnold Classic, Arnold Men’s Physique, Bikini International & Arnold Strongman Classic Finals, and Classic Physique, Fitness International, Figure International & Women’s Physique Finals (four events each Friday and Saturday nights). No spectators would be able to attend other associated events due the risk of community spread of COVID-19. It made sense that the decision about a health and wellness festival was made with the health and wellness of its fans in mind.
We met with your staff today to consider your revised request to consider allowing spectators in absence of the Expo, and to consider additional information provided by your staff. After consideration of this information, we remain gravely concerned that the event still poses a unique and unacceptable risk for the spread of COVID-19 for guests and the community. These concerns include the attendance of individuals from more than 80 countries and from other parts of the United States, including states affected by COVID-19. We are also concerned that almost all the other competitions at the festival are not single ticket events and are rather general admission, which allows for spectators to attend dozens of events and travel freely from facility to facility. These facts make this unique event significantly different than any other event we know of in this state.
We stand united in our expectation that this event and its organizers abide by the original agreement reached Tuesday. In the event that organizers fail to comply with our agreement, we stand ready to take appropriate action under Ohio law to protect the health and safety of the residents of the State of Ohio and our guests.
The Arnold Classic Finals on Saturday night, the Pro Show on Friday night, and the Meet and Greet on Thursday night at the Hilton Columbus will go on as scheduled, organizers said.
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