Arnold Sports Festival Won't Allow Spectators, Expo Amid Coronavirus Fears

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 4, 2020

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 18:  Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen during the Arnold Sports Festival Africa 2019 at Sandton Convention Centre on May 18, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

The Arnold Sports Festival, an annual multisport event held in Columbus, Ohio that features more than 22,000 athletes competing in 85 competitions, will largely be held without spectators and canceled its trade expo as a result of growing concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Max Filby of the Columbus Dispatch quoted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who said that having spectators at the events and holding the large trade show "simply was an unacceptable risk."

"Things are rapidly evolving, and given the uniqueness of this particular event we must do anything we can to slow the spread of the disease into Ohio and keep our guests and citizens as safe as we can," DeWine added.

The four-day event is slated to begin Thursday. Fans will be let in the doors Sunday for finals.

Columbus mayor Andrew J. Ginther noted that the plan was a "safer and healthier path forward" and that he "needed to listen to public health officials, experts and the changing advice and guidance given to us by the CDC."

A total of 92,700 coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 118 in the United States per the New York Times. At least 3,158 people have died.

No cases have been confirmed in Ohio, but the state's health department director Dr. Amy Action said that "this situation is going to continue to spread" and that "we will see cases in Ohio eventually."

Former actor, bodybuilder and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the namesake for the event, and he issued a statement on Twitter following the news:

Arnold @Schwarzenegger

It’s a sad day for me and everyone at the @ArnoldSports team. But we will always put our fans’ health first. After discussions with @GovMikeDeWine, @MayorGinther, and the CDC, we will be postponing the expo because we can’t risk bringing 250,000 people together with #COVID19. https://t.co/Fuzcmapxiy

Most of the events will take place in the Columbus Convention Center. Weightlifting is the first sport on the schedule.