01 Feb Vets will get statue of Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking up permanent residence in Columbus — or at least an 8-foot, 800-pound bronze sculpture of him is.
The sculpture, which depicts the actor and former California governor during his 1970s bodybuilding prime, will be unveiled March 2 in front of Veterans Memorial during the Arnold Sports Festival.
The W. Broad Street location was chosen because of Schwarzenegger’s — and his show’s — long history with the venue.
“Veterans Memorial has been doing the Arnold festival since its inception, and we did bodybuilding shows before that,” said John P. Raphael, chairman of the Vets board of trustees. “It’s been a very long, positive partnership here. With a permanent statue like that, we’ll probably have that event here for a long, long time. We feel it’s the right thing to do.”
The statue was sought by officials with Franklin County, which owns Veterans Memorial.
“The (county) commissioners brought this request to me,” said Jim Lorimer, the central Ohio businessman who founded the sports festival in 1989 with his longtime friend, Schwarzenegger. Lorimer also has been presenting bodybuilding shows at Vets since 1967.
“Arnold has been coming to Columbus since 1970. This thing really cements the Arnold Sports Festival here. There’s nobody been in that facility longer than we have.”
Last year, Schwarzenegger hired an Oregon foundry to cast two of the sculptures, which are based on a 22-inch prototype created in 1980 by Idaho artist Ralph Crawford. The same sculpture is used as the model for the Arnold Classic trophy, given to the winner of the bodybuilding contest that is the basis for the sports festival.
Schwarzenegger unveiled the first sculpture on Oct. 7, in Thal, Austria, at his childhood home, which has been converted into a museum telling the story of his life.
The Columbus statue, which will be lighted, will be set somewhere on the west side of the concrete stairs that lead up to Vets, but east of the rotunda, on Broad Street.
The statue was donated to Veterans Memorial by Dr. Robert Goldman, president emeritus of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, on behalf of the International Sports Hall of Fame, which will induct Schwarzenegger into its first class at the 2012 Arnold Sports Festival.
Goldman said it took “about half a second” to decide to sponsor the statue. “It’s completely deserving. … That statue of Christopher Columbus is right down the block, so I guess he’s in pretty good company.”
Veterans Memorial is an important place for both Schwarzenegger and his old sport, said Brent LaLonde, a spokesman for Lorimer and the festival, who compared Vets to one of the shrines of the NFL. “It’s the Lambeau Field of bodybuilding,” he said, referring to the storied home of the Green Bay Packers.
In 1970, Schwarzenegger made his first visit to Columbus to compete in the Mr. World contest at Veterans Memorial, and not only beat Cuban-born bodybuilding legend Sergio Olivia for the first time, but also met and became fast friends with Lorimer.
The two men began the Arnold Sports Festival as a one-day bodybuilding competition.
Today, the event is the largest multisport festival in the nation, bringing in 18,000 athletes to compete in 45 sports, as well as 175,000 attendees. Last year, the event brought $42.4 million in visitor spending into Columbus, said Scott Peacock of Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
The sculpture “could be our Rocky statue, who knows?” Peacock said, referring to the monument immortalizing Sylvester Stallone’s character in the Rocky movies that stands at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “You would see people come to Columbus to check it out.”
“It will be a conversation piece,” Raphael said. “I would imagine people will be taking pictures next to it.”