Like the four Cambodian Olympians heading to Beijing who say they lack proper sports shoes and training grounds, Cambodia’s Olympic committee said Wednesday it is struggling to meet its obligations despite international funding.
Meas Sarin, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, said Wednesday that Cambodia receives annual financial support from the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, yet must spend it on varied and costly obligations.
Meas Sarin said the funding is entirely devoted to administrative costs and does not pay for athlete training, which is instead covered by local sponsorship revenues.
IOC and OCA funding “started at $5,000 in 1995 after the
[NOCC’s] creation in 1994, and reached $200,000 just this year,” Meas Sarin said.
“These are administrative work funds. There are many projects such as education projects, missions, faxes, water and electricity and telephones,” he said. “If they didn’t give it to us, how would we survive?”
“People think that the Olympic Committee has a lot of money and is a millionaire. Every day, we are like beggars,” he added
Cambodia’s four Olympic participants receive a stipend of $30 per month, including meals and a place to stay along with some 20 other members of the national athletics team.
Following recent complaints that the Olympic hopefuls lacked equipment and other basic resources, the NOCC gave the athletes a one -time $400 bonus. NOCC President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon also made a $200 personal grant to each of the four.
Meas Sarin said funding for the national team athletes was drawn from a monthly $5,000 provided by a sponsor, a local lottery company, which began in May 2007.
The IOC funding is paying the Cambodian delegation’s travel expenses to Beijing, he said.
Meas Sarin added that he did not know how many people were employed by the NOCC. It was not known Wednesday exactly how many athletes are in the NOCC program.
Thong Khon could not be reached, while NOCC Deputy Secretary-General and Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nuth Sa An referred questions back to Meas Sarin.
IOC spokeswoman Sandrine Tonge wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the IOC could not discuss its funding to Cambodia until the expiry of the quadrennial period after the Olympic Games in August.
OCA spokesman Vinod Kumar Tiwari on Wednesday referred questions back to the NOCC.
Olympic swimmer Hem Thon Ponloeu, 18, said Wednesday that he was unfamiliar with the subject of NOCC funding, but felt the amounts mentioned by Meas Sarin were not excessive.
“I think that money is appropriate, not a lot, because the Olympic committee has a lot of work to do,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)