COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Arnold Schwarzenegger stressed Friday morning that he loves Columbus, but stopped short of saying “I’ll be back” next year.

Schwarzenegger made his first appearance of the year at the sports festival that bears his name. The former California governor said he’s glad the athletes are able to compete in this year’s event, but expressed frustration that no spectators are allowed.

“I am very excited about the fact that the powerlifters are here, and the world’s strongest men are here, the bodybuilders are here, the women are here that are in shape and all the athletes are here and competing and all this,” said Schwarzenegger. “But at the same time I am sad it cannot be watched by spectators because we were told by the Governor’s office that we cannot have spectators because of the coronavirus. So, we are team players. We go and do exactly that he has asked us for.”

Schwarzenegger said he is going around from sport to sport to ‘pump up’ the competitors.

Organizers of the Arnold Sports Festival and city and state leaders butted heads through the week about the decision to bar spectators from the festival’s sporting events. Governor DeWine’s office announced Tuesday that no spectators would be allowed. However, festival organizers on Wednesday said they would allow spectators. By Thursday morning, the governor’s office ordered that no spectators would be allowed, except for limited events.

In an interview with NBC4’s Dan Pearlman, Schwarzenegger expressed frustration with that decision, but said it’s important to make a decision, even if it’s the wrong one.

“When there is a disaster like this, when there is a problem like that, and danger to people’s health, I think we all have to try and figure out. Even if it’s sometimes not the right decision, we have to make a decision. Sometimes it’s better to make the wrong decision than to make no decision at all,” said Schwarzenegger. “Our convention, our expo has been canceled. The 250,000 people that we have seen in the past are not here. I totally understand why. I think that we all have to do things in order to make this stupid virus spread all over the world like it does.”

Schwarzenegger was reluctant to talk about next year, instead wanting to focus on the athletes who are here now. Pressed on the issue, he sang the praises of the city, but stopped short of saying ‘I’ll be back.”

“We love Columbus. We will just see how we are going to go and move forward, and what impact it had and all that stuff,” said Schwarzenegger.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine responded to Schwarzenegger’s comments Friday afternoon.

The Arnold Sports Festival has been a important event in Columbus for the past thirty years attracting visitors from around the world.  

I look forward to the event returning to Columbus next year bigger and better than ever.

Governor Mike DeWine

The Arnold has been a valued and treasured event in Columbus for decades with an enormous economic impact. We hope to host The Arnold for many years to come.

Mayor Andrew Ginther