It`s Friday morning, 23rd of September I’m lading at Birmingham switching off airplane mode to find messages – “have you seen this!?”
The Arnold Sports Festival UK, which is taking place these days in Birmingham and whose highlight for us bodybuilding fans are the NPC and Ifbb Pro league competitions are taking place in the shadow of a dispute between the organizers of a fairly decent scandal that has been going about. Back in the spring, it was rumored that the director and partner of the Arnold Sports Festival UK, Stephen Michael Olexy, has been facing several fraud charges since 2016 and is awaiting trial. As a result, some of its partners had to withdraw from the event, and there were doubts whether the event would take place this year. Promoters who by the way don’t like criticism on social media and are quick to remove negative comments have been selling fans yet again tickets to a seminar to meet Arnold himself who reportedly never even planned to attend Arnold Classic UK 2021 in person. These tickets went on sale this year as well, and the meeting with Arnold was sold out although they have known beforehand he wont appear and announce earlier so people would have to travel to be disappointed on the spot at NEC Brimingham.
Other stars that promoters promised to bring to expo but never happen:
Jean Claude Van Damme (tickets sold for only £1640 and this has been postponed till 2023 will there be an option of refund we don’t know.)
In recent weeks, it seemed that at least some of the doubts had been dispelled. Another important partner of the UK festival, 2 Bros Pro Events, confirmed the show will remained a part of it, although there was speculation in the spring that 2 Bros Pro Events should also withdraw from the Arnold Sports Festival UK. The unexpected twist came on Friday morning, when the following press statement appeared on the official Instagram page of the North American Arnold Sports Festival:
“It is with deep regret that we have to announce that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be personally attending the Arnold Sports Festival UK 2022 which takes place on 23-25 September 2022 at the National Expo Center in Birmingham.
Although Governor Schwarzenegger was very eager to participate, we were informed that financial obligations to various people had not been met and we demanded assurances that financial obligations to all competitors would be satisfied by having money held in escrow for them. As a result of the organizer’s failure to do so, and the fact that we were never able to reach an agreement with the organizer regarding the details of his appearance, Governor Schwarzenegger will not be appearing in person. We realize this will be a huge disappointment to Arnold fans and our event partners, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Fans wishing to receive a refund for an event that did not take place with Arnold should contact ticket provider Eventbrite.
Sincerely, Brian Powers
Executive Director of the Arnold Sports Festival.”
Following the publication of this press release, there was uncertainty among some IFBB Pro League athletes as to whether they were even guaranteed to be paid the promised prize money. However, the management of the said organization soon reassured them: “All athletes from the IFBB Jim Manion Professional League who place at the Arnold Classic UK 2022 will be paid! President Jim Manion and co-organizer Ian Constable guarantee that the prize money will go to the winners and competitors who place on the other rated ranks. We are looking forward to successful races,”it says on the Instagram account of Manion’s professional league. Let’s add that Ian Constable is the founder and owner of the already mentioned organizing company 2 Bros Pro Events. The other side of the entire dispute that we are describing then responded as the next in line, namely the company Experience with owned by Stephen Michael Olexy. The following message was published on her behalf on the official Instagram account of Arnold Sports Festival UK:
“Following the announcement by Brian Powers from the US Arnold Sports Festival, we regret to inform you that Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be attending our Arnold Sports Festival UK (ASFUK) this weekend. With this comes extreme disappointment as we have worked so hard over the last two years to ensure that he Arnold proud of the event held in his name.Last year we faced the disappointment of his absence due to health reasons, but during our preliminary planning we had no reason to believe that he would not be joining us again this year.
Arnold’s participation fee was being negotiated, but we had difficulty getting any kind of agreement from the US team. Unfortunately, requests for funds to be placed in escrow were made too late for us to accommodate. We would have preferred any news regarding ASFUK to come directly from our team, however the statement released this morning was the first confirmation we have received that Arnold will not be joining us. We know how devastating this news is for those who traveled from all over the world to meet Arnold. We feel the same way. However, we are still looking forward to putting on an incredible event this weekend with our heroes, partners and exhibitors. All ticket holders to meet Arnold will be contacted in due course.
We have absolutely no worries about kicking off our event with all other heroes present and all other elements of the festival continuing as planned. We want to thank all our athletes and exhibitors for being a part of the three amazing days we have planned for you. We also thank Arnold for his support over the past two years. Looking forward, as a team we will be renaming this event the Experience With Sports Festival UK. We look forward to continuing to grow as Experience With Sports Festival UK and we can’t wait to take you on this journey with us. We plan to grow to become the most exciting fitness and healthy lifestyle event in the world. We look forward to seeing you all this weekend and to an unforgettable experience together.
The Experience with team.”
Immediately afterwards, the official Arnold Sports Festival UK Facebook page was renamed to Experience With Sports Festival UK, and the Arnold Sports Festival logo was replaced by Experience with logo in the profile picture. Shortly afterwards, however, the images of the Arnold Sports Festival returned.
The question is what all of this will mean for the future of now biggest expo since Bodypower bailed . Although the company Experience with has experience in bringing various world celebrities to Great Britain (at the Arnold Sports Festival UK, it was mainly responsible for the “expo” part), but at least some of them have certainly traveled to the Islands in the last two years, also thanks to the fact that the event was associated with Arnold’s name. Further cooperation of Experience with a 2 Bros Pro Events can be considered almost impossible. It is also very unlikely, at least for the moment, that the management of the IFBB professional league would entrust Experience with with the organization of his competition in the future. So will there be any professional bodybuilding competitions at all at Experience With Sports Festival UK in the future? If athletes from Jim Manion’s IFBB professional league were not to compete here, will another sports federation associate its name with Experience with? And what about the Arnold Classic UK? In the coming years, will 2 Bros Pro Events take over the organization of the competition entirely on its own, or will these races be held for the last time this year? We should get answers in the coming months. For now, the most important thing for bodybuilding fans and the competitors themselves is that the competition took place.