Calling the recent performance at the Southeast Asian Games a “great national shame,” King Norodom Sihanouk has sketched out a plan to restore Cambodia to its past athletic glory.
“To come in last in an international competition turns into a real national shame,” the monarch wrote in an interview in his most recent monthly bulletin.
Cambodia failed to win a single medal at the SEA Games, held last month in Brunei. The basketball team was trounced in several games and the football team came home early in the competition. National Olympic Committee President My Samedy at the time blamed the loss on a lack of adequate training and equipment.
The country’s performance—its worst yet at the competition—was highlighted several times in the monarch’s monthly bulletin, which included copies of numerous news reports on the results.
The King recalled the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era and noted proudly that Cambodia was “especially strong” in a number of sporting events, including cycling, shooting, tennis, wrestling, swimming, table tennis and boxing, although not in the heavyweight categories.
To recapture that success, King Sihanouk wrote, Prime Minister Hun Sen or National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh must personally take charge of a new “supreme committee” that would oversee sports development.
My Samedy said last Thursday he thought the idea was very good. “We should have a strong leader.”
The committee, King Sihanouk wrote, would be run by administrators who are “competent and honest.” Funding and technical assistance should be sought from wealthy foreign and Cambodian companies, and King Sihanouk wrote he believes the firms would support the idea provided “there is no theft or non-appropriate use of that money.”
The monarch also suggested concentrating on just a few events in which Cambodia would have a chance of winning, such as long-distance running, boxing, cycling and shooting.
In a postscript to the interview, the King recommended setting up a national sports center where promising athletes would live and train under the watchful eyes of their coaches.
“All countries of consequence in the field of sports have such centers and even institutes,” King Sihanouk wrote. “Today, one does not get a place in the sun without professionalism in everything done for the good of one’s nation.”