Is Arnold Schwarzenegger the CEO and Head of Arnold Classic?

Published 02/22/2024, 12:08 PM EST

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The Arnold Classic, or Arnold Sports Festival, is just around the corner, and the buzz has reached its tipping point. One of the most significant sports festivals, the 2024 Arnold Sports Festival, is set to take place from Feb. 29 to March 3, 2024, in Columbus, Ohio. The Arnold Expo, an integral part of the festival, will be held from March 1 to March 3, 2024. This year marks the 36th anniversary of the celebrated sports festival. Let’s delve into its origin, the business it handles, and why its prize money is less than Mr. Olympia, despite being the most notable festival ever.

The tale of its Origin

In 1989, the Arnold Sports Festival started as a one-day competition in Columbus, Ohio. Now, it’s the leading sports festival globally, lasting four days with exciting competitions, shows, and seminars. The idea began in 1970 when Jim Lorimer, a sports promoter in Columbus, asked Arnold Schwarzenegger to join. Arnie was invited to compete in the Mr. World contest and the World Weightlifting Championships.


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via Getty

Eventually, both sports enthusiasts started the sports festival in 1989. Later, when Schwarzenegger became the head of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, he asked Lorimer to make the Arnold Classic weekend about more than just bodybuilding. That’s when martial arts and gymnastics joined in, starting a new era of distinct sports. The festival grew every year, adding new events and celebrating athletic success. In 2006, it officially became the Arnold Sports Festival, showing its wider variety.

The diverse lineup includes strength and Olympic sports, seven IFBB Pro League contests, and the awe-inspiring Arnold Strongman Classic. Notably, the Arnold Strongwoman Competition highlights the strength and skill of women athletes, contributing to the festival’s inclusive and empowering atmosphere. Nevertheless, even with its global popularity, the 76-year-old icon remains committed to honoring a promise he made to the founder of Mr. Olympia Joe Weider. Despite the grandeur of the festival, the prize money for its competitions never surpasses that of Mr. Olympia. Why is that?

Contract Negotiations and Prize Money Dilemma

According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the answer lies in a deal he struck with the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation (IFBB) to attain elite status for his competitions. In an interview, he revealed that the IFBB required an agreement for the Arnold Classic to be sanctioned as an official IFBB competition.

The catch? The agreement stipulated that the Arnold Classic could not offer more cash prizes than the prestigious Mr. Olympia. This limitation stemmed from the IFBB’s regulations and impacted the potential increase in cash rewards for the winners. The Austrian Oak acknowledged that the Arnold Classic was the first to offer the winner a $5000 cash prize, with the amount increasing annually until the contractual constraints came into play. He explained, “Then the IFBB came along and said we have to have an agreement for you to be sanctioned by the IFBB as an official IFBB competition. You cannot offer more money than we’re offering for the Olympia.”

READ MORE: History of Arnold Sports Festival: How Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Manage to Make It One of the Biggest Bodybuilding Shows

Mr. Olympia offers a whopping $400,000 cash prize to the Open Category winner. On the other hand, Arnold Classic offers an astounding $300,000 cash prize. Nonetheless, his commitment to recognizing and rewarding talent persisted. Unhappy with Olympia’s prize structure during his competitive years, he introduced non-cash prizes at the Arnold Classic, adding a unique dimension to the competition. At 76 years old, Schwarzenegger remains dedicated to expanding the Arnold Classic and recognizing true talent.

Carrying on the legacy of his partner and unlocking new endeavors

Now let’s talk about who is handling the business after the passing of Jim Lorimer. In 2022, the world bid farewell to Jim Lorimer, the co-founder of Arnold Classic, marking a poignant moment. According to reports, after the passing of Lorimer, his son, Robert Lorimer, would be the next CEO of the Arnold Sports Festival. However, it is not clear who is handling the core business. Yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger keeps the festival’s spirit alive with dedication, carrying on Lorimer’s legacy.

Celebrating its 36th Anniversary, the Arnold Sports Festival remains a testament to the enduring spirit of athleticism and the transformative power of fitness. But that’s not all. Schwarzenegger took to his official Instagram page and shared a joint post, where he joyfully declared that the live streaming of the 2024 show will be free.


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Arnie shared vibrant snapshots from the 2023 event, highlighting the competition’s grandeur. Expressing his desire to expand bodybuilding’s reach, he stated, “My goal has always been to grow the sport, and I want everyone to watch and be inspired by the Arnold Classic, no matter their budget. So, this year, the live stream will be free.” Get ready for an accessible showcase of bodybuilding brilliance!

It serves as a global gathering place for athletes, enthusiasts, and fitness lovers to showcase their passion for health and wellness.

READ MORE: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Secret Deal With IFBB Regarding Lower Prize Money Than Mr. Olympia for Arnold Classic Events


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Written by:

Arpita Shrivastava


One take at a time

Arpita Shrivastava is a bodybuilding writer at EssentiallySports who specializes in tracking the lifestyles of bodybuilders. A master’s degree holder in Mass Communication, Arpita is a frequent contributor to coverage about her idols Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler. She likes going behind the scenes to understand the nitty-gritty of building a shredded physique.
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Edited by:

Jacob Gijy