Governor DeWine promises to ‘take appropriate action’ if organizers of Arnold Classic proceed with decision to now allow spectators

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther sent a letter to organizers of the Arnold Classic after they changed course and decided to allow spectators to this weekend’s competition in Columbus.

On Wednesday night, organizers tweeted that due to coronavirus concerns the Arnold Fitness Expo would remain closed but that “friends, family, and fans are welcome to watch their favorite athletes compete.”

That was a change from Tuesday, when government and health officials announced that this year’s event will go on as scheduled, but due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, spectators would be barred from the event.

“Yesterday we had about 30 minutes to make this decision. We did not have all the information in front of us,” said Daniel Ketchel, Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff, WCMH reported Wednesday. “After researching further this morning we’ve asked the mayors and governors office that we can have spectators.” 

In a joint letter sent late Wednesday, DeWine and Ginther 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.”

Under the agreement, spectators would only have been allowed to attend “certain single ticketed events” like the Arnold Classic, Arnold Men’s Physique, Bikini International & Arnold Strongman Classic Finals, and Classic Physique, Fitness International, Figure International & Women’s Physique Finals.

DeWine and Ginther said, “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 unqiue and unacceptable risk for the spread of COVID-19 for guests and the community.”

They sited the fact that the event brings visitors from 80 countries and across the United States.

“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 letter concluded.

According to WCMH, Ketchel said, “Our plan is to have spectators unless we are told that we absolutely can not.”

On Tuesday, Ginther tweeted, “It was not an easy decision to limit The Arnold to athletes only with no spectators, but it is the right decision.”

He said the decision was “collaborative” based on consultation with Columbus Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts and other physicians.

The entire letter:

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger and Mr. Lorimer,

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.

Very sincerely yours,

Mike DeWine
Ohio Governor

Andrew Ginther
Columbus Mayor

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