2020 Arnold Sports Festival USA: Athletes to be screened for coronavirus

Columbus Governor and Mayor threaten legal action against Arnold Sports Festival.

The dispute over spectators being allowed entrance to the Arnold Sports Festival this weekend seems to be getting more complicated.

With the Pro and Amateur events given the green light, the Arnold Sports Festival organizers could face legal action in regards to spectators entering.

It was confirmed that spectators would be allowed to enter and watch the pro events, but the dispute is over the amateur events.

The tug of war over this year’s Arnold Sports Festival continues, with Governor Mike DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther threatening legal action Wednesday night if organizers don’t continue to follow a plan agreed upon Tuesday.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff Daniel Ketchell said Wednesday they hope spectators will be allowed to watch sporting events despite COVID-19 fears and plan to move forward in that manner. This comes after Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press conference that spectators would only be allowed at finals events Saturday which are single ticketed.

Late Wednesday night, DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther responded with a letter to Schwarzenegger and founders saying spectators will not be allowed, writing that city and state leaders are ready to take legal action to protect the health and safety of Ohioans.

Ketchell said the trade show and expo portions are canceled, but all athletes of all ages and their entourages will be allowed to participate.

“The expo, which is the largest congregator of people, is completely shut down,” Ketchell said. “Our plan right now is to have spectators unless we are told we absolutely cannot,” Ketchell said.

Late Wednesday night, DeWine and Ginther released a statement saying local and state government “stand united in our expectation that this event and its organizers abide by the original agreement reached Tuesday.”

Their statement said if organizers fail to comply with the agreement that was reached Tuesday, that would not allow spectators, “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.”

DeWine sent the following letter to Schwarzenegger and organizers:

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.

The Arnold Sports Festival said Wednesday night that sports will continue and “friends, family, and fans are welcome to watch their favorite athletes compete.” The website said tickets will be available on site.