COLUMBUS — Ohio’s governor and organizers of the annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus have announced that only athletes will be allowed at most of the event scheduled to begin Thursday because of the threat posed by the new coronavirus.
Gov. Mike DeWine said the event’s trade show will not be held and spectators will not be permitted at the four-day event except for Saturday night’s finals competition.
The event established by and named after former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been slated to draw more than 20,000 athletes from 80 countries to compete in more than 80 events to include professional bodybuilding and a strongman competition.
The Columbus health director said fewer than 20 athletes from five affected countries — China, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy — will be excluded.
DeWine cited hours-old guidance on mass gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control to take into account the capacity of local health departments. He said the Saturday night event that will include about 4,000 people had pre-sold tickets and officials considered it not significantly different than something like a basketball game.
The Ohio governor worked in consultation with city officials and the former California governor, who called it a “very sad moment.” He said by phone at the news conference that this is the first time in event history that activities have been postponed.
An online petition created Sunday called for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to cancel the event because of COVID-19.