Arnie is back in Austria

Disgraced action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to return to Austria in autumn during a speech at an international energy issues summit in Vienna today (Tues).

The fallen Hollywood hero – who kept quiet towards his estranged wife about his illegitimate child with a maid of many years – revealed plans to visit Thal later this year. The former governor of California was born and raised in the small town near Graz. School time friends of the “Terminator” star are currently setting up a museum in his former home. The opening of the exhibition has been delayed for years. Head organiser Peter Urdl has claimed he wants to give his old pal a chance to attend the grand opening.

Schwarzenegger landed at Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE) yesterday evening. It is the first time the ex-politician put his feet on Austrian soil after a brief trip to Graz and to his mum’s grave in the Styrian countryside in November 2009. Clutching a Cuban cigar, the 63-year-old boarded a minivan waiting for him on the runway of the airport which took him straight to the Hotel Imperial.

Schwarzenegger stopped to sign some autographs for the dozens of fans waiting for hours for him to arrive outside the five-star hotel in the city centre of the capital. “I had a nice flight. It feels great to be back,” the “Governator” told reporters before he was escorted inside by the head manager of the luxury resort.

Schwarzenegger spent several minutes to thank old friends of his at the beginning of his 30-minute speech at the Vienna Energy Forum, an event held by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) at Hofburg Palace. Wearing a green tie, the actor and green lifestyle campaigner said it felt “great” to be in Austria again “where it all started for me.” Schwarzenegger emphasised he had “so many wonderful memories.”

He acknowledged the loyalty of long-time pals and politicians in the country where he was born. However, Schwarzenegger also took the opportunity for thanking press in Austria for always having acted in a fair way towards him. The “Total Recall” star mentioned Austrian coffee, wiener schnitzel and other delicacies before raising the topic of environmental issues.

Schwarzenegger called on the over 1,000 people in the audience to take Güssing in south-eastern Austria as an example. The town located in the province of Burgenland started years ago to generate all energy needed by households and companies by using the heat created by burning woodchips.

Schwarzenegger pointed out that many jobs were created in the once economically struggling area thanks to the revolutionary idea of its mayor and a small group of local businessmen. However, the five-time winner of global bodybuilding competition Mr Universe failed to point out that Güssing is still not making a profit with its eco-friendly way of creating electricity and heating.

Schwarzenegger mentioned neither that less than half of the overall demand for energy can be supplied by the town’s wood-burning factory. Most residents of the remote town – which has bagged various international awards for its efforts to go green – are understood to back the electricity policy. Nevertheless, opposition politicians and a small number of locals are reportedly unhappy about the environmental strategy’s failure to significantly reduce energy prices for consumers. Some are also concerned that managers of the facility were unable to react to possible attempts by regional providers of wood to keep the price of timber high in the coming years.

Dozens of delegations of politicians, environmentalists and entrepreneurs from all over the world are shown around the plant in Güssing, which has less than 4,000 inhabitants, each year to learn more. Chiefs of the project are eager to pass on their knowledge and experiences to businesspeople interested in adopting the concept.

Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich – who comes from Burgenland – has praised the Güssing energy model many times before Schwarzenegger made aware of it in front of international opinion leaders at the congress in Vienna today.

It is unclear how long “Arnie” – who reportedly put plans of a comeback in the film industry on hold after his family issues emerged – will stay in Austria. He is hotly tipped to travel to Graz later today or tomorrow before returning to the United States this weekend.