Arnold Classic Brasil: Mens sana in corpore sano

by Albert Silver
4/29/2014 – During the weekend of April 25-27, the largest multi-sport event in the world, the Arnold Classic, held its second Brazilian edition in Rio de Janeiro. This massive sports festival, created 25 years ago by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer in Ohio, USA, is dedicated to sports, health, and fitness, and at the personal insistence of Schwarzenegger himself, one of the sports was chess.

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When I first heard the Arnold Classic was making its second appearance in Brazil, I did not make much of it. As far as I was concerned, it was essentially a bodybuilding event capitalizing on a fan base in Brazil, with possibly a few activities held on the side. When I was told that a number of chess events would be held there, I scratched my head in confusion, and as I better informed myself on the festival, I realized the scope of my ignorance.

To begin with, describing it as the largest multi-sport event in the world is not some clever marketing ploy based on a loose interpretation of terms. Indeed while the bodybuilding event may be the showcase of the festival, with several strength and fitness competitions held alongside, there are also competitions in karate, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, indoor bike (the acrobatic kind, not the Tour de France kind), skateboarding, pole dancing, and…. chess!

In the United States, the yearly event has reached a total of over 18 thousand competitors (to put this in perspective, the 2012 Olympics had around 10,500) in 45 competitions and sports, twelve of which are Olympic modalities, and attracts over 175 thousand visitors from around the world.

If ever there was a sign that chess was crossing the usual boundaries of popular acceptance as a sport this was one, but it must be said that the driving force behind its inclusion was none other than the governator himself, a renowned fan of the game. Still, seeing is believing, and I duly registered myself as a journalist, representing ChessBase News.

Luiz Felipe Bonilha and Ana Paula Leal Graziano are the Brazilian partners who
helped make the event a reality in Brazil. As someone who was on-hand for the
duration, I can attest to the first-world level of organization. Very impressive.

The press conference included Luiz Felipe Bonilha, Ana Paula Graziano, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, his partner Jim Lorimer, and IFBB president Rafael Santorro

Although it might seem obvious he would be present at a festival of his creation,
it must be pointed out that Arnold is in the middle of filming Terminator 5, and
took just enough time off to come to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday with an obligation
to resume filming on Monday. Busy man.

There were hundreds of journalists and photographers present at the press
conference, and TV cameras galore at the rear

Despite ample seating arrangements, some were still forced
to improvise

No, they are not representatives of 'Gladiator Magazine', these two were 'journalists'
who represent a famous comedy program in Brazil, "Pânico".

An enthusiastic crowd buys tickets to visit

The first edition of Arnold Classic Brasil (they spell Brazil with an S here) was held in a 15 thousand square meter space, with 19 competitions and receiving a little over 35 thousand visitors. One year later, based on Schwarzenegger's fervent advice to "make it big", the festival was held in a space of 25 thousand square meters with 31 sports competitions.

Although these long lines lines might seem scary, they were a half an hour
before the event officially opened to the public. Once opened, things flowed smoothly

Inside the various pavilions, representatives of every major health, fitness and
nutrition brand could be found, and to the delight of aficionados, one could easily fill
oneself just on the free samples given out everywhere. That said, over US$35 million
in business was concluded over the three days.

Athletes of yesteryear and today, were more than happy to pose with fans, with
endless patience it must be said. Standing next to me (Albert Silver) is one of the
all-time greats of bodybuilding, Dorian Yates, who won the Mr. Olympia title six
straight times. He has the fourth most titles in history.

Hats off to Andy Haman, who not only had to wear that superhero suit on a day
when the airconditioning broke (on Sunday it was working fine though), but still
found the means to pose with endless good-humor. Here he took out a mask for
TV presenter Marcela Monteiro, who broke into laughter.

When I asked to take a picture myself, he is the one who
suggested it look as if he had nabbed a bad guy. Naturally,
I played along to make the most of the shot.

Although bodybuilding is the driving force behind the festival, it is not just about
hypertrophism. It is about each person's quest for health and physical fitness, and
their vision of the ideal physique.

The ideal physique varies according to each one, and above are Brazilian fitness
competitors and models with their own outlook

It is worth noting that the completely disproportionate number
of very fit and highly attractive people to be seen everywhere,
and I do not mean just the models and athletes, was not only
very pleasant for one's eyes, but quite inspiring

The chess activities were held on Sunday in one of the main pavilions, near the main
entrance where one could not possibly miss them. Chess would not go unnoticed.

It started with a simul on 42 boards by IM Luis Rodi, a very friendly Uruguayan
based in Rio de Janeiro. Most of the participants were children.

The open nature of the space meant that literally right next to it were skateboarding,...

...jump roping hosted by high-level competitors sharing the joy and tricks,...

... and a strong indoor bike competition with a very friendly, albeit boisterous bunch.

They performed daring airborn acrobacies to wow the crowd, while right beside
them was the chess. Though it was a bit surreal, and loud, it was also fun.

Finally the time came for Arnold to make his appearance, as he dutifully showed
up at every single event so not one felt any less important. The crowds followed,
the security took up their positions, and the photographers came running.

FM Alberto Mascarenhas, president of the Rio de Janeiro Federation of Chess,
greets Arnold Schwarzenegger at the entrance

The superstar greeted all the participants of the simul, which was still running
its course.

As he stopped to look at the games underway, it was clear he wasn't just there
to appear in photos as he began to study the positions

With the permission of IM Rodi, the legend played the next moves on a number
of boards, to the delight of the players, spending time pondering his move. Jim
Lorimer, his longtime partner, had asked prior to his arrival whether there was
a chance he would have time for a real game. He noted that Arnold played chess
"all the time" and absolutely loves the game.

Sadly, there was no time as he still had a very busy schedule before having to
return to the US for the movie. Here he graciously thanks IM Rodi for allowing
him to join in the simul. Luis later noted that when he returned to the boards,
he was impressed to note that no blunders had been made, no material dropped,
and sensible moves had been played.

Parents took the opportunity to introduce the game to their children

The doubles competition allowed old friends such as Vicenzo Camilotti and Marlen Moura
to meet up and play on the same side...

... as well as father and son duos such as FM Wagner Guimarães and his son Lucas.

When the day was over, and the events finished, it was with regret that one noted the end. Whereas the 2013 edition had enjoyed over 35 thousand visitors, this year saw over 70 thousand, and with such a warm reception and obvious success, the 2015 edition is already ensured. I can't wait.

Pictures by Albert Silver

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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