Arnold Schwarzenegger — the bodybuilder, movie star and ex-governor whose romantic exploits have landed him in the middle of a messy divorce — invoked his life as model for young people Friday during the formal inauguration of a museum dedicated to him in his native Austria.
Hundreds of fans braved driving rain and chilly autumn temperatures to fete Austria’s most famous living son at the museum, located in the two-story Thal village house where Schwarzenegger was born.
The museum, open since July, is a repository of items that include his first barbell, the metal bed that he slept on as a youth, several life-size “Terminator” models and the polished dark wooden desk he sat behind while California’s governor.
Schwarzenegger also unveiled a bronze statue of himself flexing and in trunks as the young body builder from Austria whose rippling biceps led to his Hollywood career — and the popularity that paved the road to the governor’s office.
Shielded by an umbrella, Schwarzenegger used the occasion to deliver an inspirational speech to youthful fans. Invoking the title of one of his early films, he told them anything was possible as long as they “stay hungry.”
He said he wishes that every person who visits the museum “understands that everyone can be successful in his own way.”
“My personal success has less to do with millions of dollars or with the headlines in the media that are not always positive and also not with being clapped on the shoulder by Barack Obama and other world names,” he said. “Personal success is the result of determination, hard work and stubbornness.
“For me, this is not only a museum,” he added, gesturing to the yellow-stuccoed house behind him. “It is also a symbol of will … everyone has a chance.”
The bronze statue is one of several commissioned by Schwarzenegger earlier this year. But even if some in the crowd knew that the Schwarzenegger likeness was not unique, they didn’t seem to care. Bodyguards had to pry a path through people holding an umbrella in one hand and trying to touch their idol with the other, whistling and cheering as he passed by.
With Schwarzenegger was Patrick, his son from his marriage with Maria Shriver. The two are divorcing. But the museum displays photos of Schwarzenegger and Shriver in happier times, and Schwarzenegger described “the marriage with Maria” as one of the days “that I remember with great fondness.”
The marriage unraveled after Schwarzenegger acknowledged being the father of child outside of his marriage — something that at least some fans gathered Friday suggested tarnished his reputation.
“We Austrians are proud of him and what he accomplished,” said Gottfried Karner, from the Upper Austrian city of Steyr. “But there are certain things he did that one does not agree with.”
Most Austrians have stayed focused on Schwarzenegger’s successes since he left for the United States in 1968, first as Mr. Universe, then as “Conan the Barbarian” and the “Terminator” — and finally his 2003 election as governor.
Even before his private life came up for criticism, however, Schwarzenegger’s cult status in Austria took some knocks because of his support of the Iraq war and the death penalty as California’s governor.
Criticism grew after he refused to pardon two convicted murderers in a row in 2005 to the point where he ordered city fathers in Graz — Austria’s second largest city where he spent his youth — to strip his name from the Graz soccer stadium and sent back the city’s highest award — its ring of honor.
Since then, the mood has swung back to adulation — and Friday’s speeches reflected that. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, who opened the ceremonies, described Schwarzenegger as “one Austrian known by everyone in the world, adding: “We as Austrians are proud of you.”
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