Friday, February 23, 2024

Legacy of Jim Lorimer lives on through Arnold Sports Festival

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jim Lorimer was an FBI agent, corporate executive at Nationwide Insurance company, a mayor, and chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Women’s Track and Field.

“My father, he was always just a really positive guy, most friendly person you ever met,” said Robert Lorimer, former CEO of the Arnold Sports Festival and son of Co-founder Jim Lorimer. 


What You Need To Know

  • Jim Lorimer co-founded the Arnold Classic in 1989  
  • His influence continues to live on through the yearly event, which will include 12,000 athletes and more than 100,000 spectators this year 
  • Lorimer passed away in November at age 96 

But perhaps people of central Ohio and beyond remember him as Co-founder of the Arnold Classic. 

His son Robert has fond memories of those early days and his father’s relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who he met through the Mr. Olympia competition.

“We all worked the event, so at that particular time, you know we start selling t-shirts and programs. The very first show, they came back to our living room, and they were sitting on the living room floor, counting out ten-dollar and twenty-dollar bills,” said Robert Lorimer. “You each walked away with a thousand dollars that first year, but they were just so happy.”

But he said no one could have foretasted Schwarzenegger’s meteoric rise to fame and the scope of his brand. 

The Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition would eventually turn into a multi-sport event the Arnold Classic in 1989 held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus.  

Robert Lorimer, the future CEO of the Arnold, and personal trainer, was opening up World Gym fitness centers across Columbus and helping his father get sponsorships for what would one day become a global event. 

“In 2017 in South Africa we had 40,000 athletes competing in some 56 sports. It was just staggering amounts of numbers that we were doing in some of these other continents,” said Lorimer. 

Brian Ross, President and CEO of Experience Columbus, said while some recognize Columbus for the zoo or Ohio State university, others would think of the Arnold Sports Festival. 

Brian Ross knew Jim Lorimer well and said until the partnership ended in 2019, the Arnold Sports Festival had nearly 20 thousand athletes, 80 sports, 200,000 visitors per year, and more than $50 million in economic impact for the city of Columbus. 

“Anytime I ever interacted with Jim, it was about how he could utilize this tremendous asset in the Arnold Sports Festival, and how he could grow that, in tandem, with growing the image and brand of Columbus. Lived a very full life, but you know he does have legacies,” said Ross. 

Jim Lorimer was inducted into the Columbus city Hall of Fame in 2019. Three years later, he passed away at age 96. 

Well beyond a lifetime of accomplishments and a 50-year friendship with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Lorimer said, Jim Lorimer was a devoted father of three and spent 80 years together with his high school sweetheart Jean. 

He said his mother’s last days were a true reflection of Jim Lorimer’s character.  

“My mom started to get Alzheimer’s. We were going to put her into a home, just so she could have that full-time care, but my father moved with her. And not only did he move with her, and I’ll tell you, this is very hard to get through emotionally but again, he sat in that room with her for a year and a half, holding her hand, every 10 minutes saying, ‘I love you, I love you.’ Says so much right there, because who can do that? That was incredible,” said Robert Lorimer.  

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