Arnold Classic fiesta begins

SANDTON - It is only natural that when Arnold Schwarzenegger moves he turns heads but when 10 000 other strongmen and athletes from across the world descend on one city, even street hustlers are bound to take a vacation.

Such is the euphoria that has gripped Sandton City as the Hollywood star got the ball rolling for the international multi-sporting event named after him being held here this weekend.

The annual sporting event is a four-day affair and features a bodybuilding and fitness tournament as well as a three-day expo.

The legendary professional bodybuilder 's visit here marks the launch of Arnold Classic Africa.

The Arnold Classic Africa has pushed into the shade one of Africa's leading shopping centre, famed for its unparalleled shopping experience.

It has all been about the strongmen who will make this place their home for the next three days.

Opening the event at a local hotel yesterday, Schwarzenegger told a packed press conference the Arnold Classic would become a permanent feature on the continent.

Zimbabwe is being represented by 17 athletes competing across categories that include body fitness, bikini fitness, junior bikini fitness, men’s physique, classic body building and senior men body building.

While Schwarzenegger, who has an estimated net worth of $300 million had some words of advice for budding bodybuilders, he said his life experience should serve as a motivation to many.

The actor, politician, and businessman spoke of how as a child, he wanted to move from Austria to America to become rich and famous – and that is exactly what he did.

This was despite that life never dealt him the easiest of cards but he learnt to turn lemons that were dished out to him into lemonade.

“I was lucky America is the land of opportunities,” he said.

He said even when he decided to go into acting no one believed he could hit the jackpot one day with blockbuster titles like Terminator, Commando, Last Action Hero and The Expendables.

His intention to run for Governor for California even astounded more.

“Never listen to the naysayers,” Schwarzenegger said. “I was told all sorts of things. They said who is this guy, who is so muscular, with an almost unpronounceable surname and a thick Austrian accent?”

He said through hard work and determination, sleeping six hours a day and being productive the rest of his 24 hours, he soon soured to become a sort after actor.

“I ran for governor, I didn’t start at the bottom I went for the top post I could contest for as someone who was not born in America,” he said.

Schwarzenegger CV remains the envy of many and he believes the bodybuilders contesting here in Sandton have an equal chance to make a name of themselves despite how dire they may think of their circumstances.

“I’ve been coming to South Africa since 1967 because my idol lived here, the man that inspired me to get into lifting, bodybuilding and fitness, Reg Park, lived here,” Schwarzenegger said.

Park was a legendary bodybuilder from Leeds, UK, who migrated to Mzansi, and is credited for inspiring the multitudes of the world’s leading muscleman; Schwarzenegger included.

“Since then the sport has grown tremendously so this is why it is so great for me to be back here. I won the Mr Olympia competition here in 1975,” he said.

“We were the first sports competition that insisted to have a mixed audience in the same auditorium and on the stage.

“The reason why the Arnold Classic has been so successful is because we’ve always been inclusive, if there was a sport that wanted to participate they would be welcome as long as they focus on the youth and not just the grownups.”

Zimbabwe National Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness spokesperson Quiet Shangai said: “The main objective is to expose these athletes. Winning a category will be a bonus. We last did IFBB tournament as a country during the days of George Takundwa.”

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