Jim Lorimer, Co-Founder of the Arnold Sports Festival, Dies at Age 96

Lorimer's partnership with Arnold Schwarzenegger led to the creation of one of the biggest fitness expos in existence.

Longtime bodybuilding promoter and co-founder of the Arnold Sports Festival, Jim Lorimer, has died at the age of 96. Lorimer’s family confirmed his passing on Nov. 24, 2022, and as of this writing, no cause of death was given. Lorimer’s longtime partner and friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, also posted the news on his Instagram, along with his thoughts.

“Jim Lorimer will live forever through the millions of people he inspired to join our fitness crusade and tune into this little niche sport called bodybuilding,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “I am devastated that I won’t sit with him again and hear his wisdom, or critique bodybuilders together, or just laugh and laugh. My thoughts are with Bob, Kathy, Jeff, and the whole Lorimer family, but I also know that Jim isn’t gone. Jim lives on in every member of his family, and he lives on in me. He’s one reason I would never call myself self-made.”

Jim Lorimer’s History as a Bodybuilding Promoter

Born on October 7, 1926, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, Lorimer served in the Navy during World War II and afterward worked as a special agent for the F.B.I. until the mid-’50s. He soon became a champion for organized women’s sports in Ohio, creating the Ohio Track Club’s women’s team in 1959 and later working as Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Women’s Athletics in the 1960s.

Lorimer also promoted bodybuilding shows and fitness events in the Columbus, OH, area for over 50 years. His most famous contest is arguably the 1970 Mr. World show, in which Schwarzenegger upset the reigning Mr. Olympia, Sergio Oliva, for the win.

Schwarzenegger then went on to win the 1970 Mr. Olympia contest, again beating the three-time champion Oliva and starting a string of six consecutive victories.

The Birth of the Arnold

Lorimer and Schwarzenegger soon formed a partnership to promote bodybuilding shows as a duo. That partnership led to the creation of the Arnold Classic in 1989, a contest that has since become bodybuilding’s second-biggest show after the Mr. Olympia.

In the years since, the Arnold Classic evolved into the Arnold Sports Festival (ASF) and now features more than 80 different sports and events. The ASF weekend traditionally takes place during the first weekend of March, with the 2023 edition set to take place March 2-5, in Columbus.

[Related: How Larry Scott, the First Mr. Olympia, Changed Bodybuilding Forever]

Aside from his work as a promoter, Lorimer had also served on the President’s Council of Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition under President George H. W. Bush. Lorimer was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Sports Hall of Fame alongside Schwarzenegger in 2012.

Lorimer is survived by his three children.

Featured Image: @schwarzenegger on Instagram