South Africa is a better place to visit now than it was when he first arrived in the country five decades ago, according to world-renowned personality Arnold Schwarzenegger, who praised the country yesterday for the progress it has made.
As a teenager, Schwarzenegger had been invited to Johannesburg to train with the late Reg Park, a fellow bodybuilder and actor, who was born in Great Britain but later settled in SA.
Arriving back in the country this week for the second edition of the Arnold Classic Africa multi-sport festival, 69-year-old Schwarzenegger said he was delighted to see the societal changes the nation had made.
“I spent a week training with Reg Park, who was my idol, and I fell in love with this beautiful country,” said Schwarzenegger, a popular actor, politician and bodybuilder.
“It is great to see the spectacular progress this country has made over the last few decades, getting rid of apartheid and fixing the political situation. It’s good to see people treating each other like equals,” he said.
Schwarzenegger’s global Arnold Classic series – launched in the United States in 1989 – has since spread across six continents, promoting health and fitness around the world. The African leg of the campaign – which was launched last year – is hosting 58 sport codes in Sandton this weekend, and is attracting over 14 000 participants.
While the series included pro-bodybuilding and strongman competitions, Schwarzenegger said the Arnold Classic gave amateur athletes and fledgling codes an opportunity to showcase their sporting abilities.
“The Arnold Classic is like the Olympics for ordinary people,” said Schwarzenegger.
He won seven Mr Olympia bodybuilding titles in his prime.
“This event is for everyone, no matter whether they are young or old, men or women, or if they have physical or mental challenges.
“Every person competing at the Arnold Classic is considered an equal.
“We believe every human being has the right to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Schwarzenegger.