Cambodia Gears Up for First National Games

Some 2,000 athletes from every corner of the country will descend upon Phnom Penh later this month for a new national sports competition that officials hope will prepare the country’s best for the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia.

The games will happen every two years and will be free to the public.

The first Cambodian National Games will kick off on October 25, with a grandiose opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium three days later, said Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.

“There will be a sports parade, torch running, fireworks and music. It will be similar to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games,” Mr. Chamroeun said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the opening ceremony, handing a torch to renowned former athlete Keo Thon, 88, and a closing ceremony will be held about a week later, he said.

The event—costing the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports $1 million—has been arranged in the hope of acting as a catalyst for inspiring young athletes in time for the SEA Games, which will be held in Cambodia for the first time in 2023.

“We hope to make our youth understand that every two years they have the chance to realize the level of techniques of the people in the country so they can exchange experiences and improve their training for next time,” Mr. Chamroeun said.

He also said the games would allow officials to become accustomed to holding large sporting competitions.

“Our goal is to gain experience, finding out our weak and strong points both technically in preparation and management. We will fill in all the lacking areas,” he said.

Last year, the government announced a master plan for the biggest sporting event to be held in the country since the 1960s. Construction of the new 60,000-seat Morodok Techo National Sports Complex began three years ago in the capital’s Chroy Changva district, but is not expected to be completed until 2020.

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