Two weeks after the close of Olympic Stadium left thousands of recreational and national team athletes with no place to play, they are scavenging Phnom Penh’s scarce supply of alternate sporting facilities.
“It’s their own business. The public must find their own personal solutions,” said Bou Chum Serey, undersecretary general of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, which is responsible for overseeing the stadium’s planned renovation.
Officials closed the national stadium in the beginning of August and with the exception of a handful of obstinate squatters, fence-hopping joggers and rogue swimmers, the facility is now empty.
Ministry officials have since found alternate facilities for national team athletes.
City officials had originally trumpeted the Old Stadium as a viable alternative for the public. But now the national teams are elbowing recreational athletes out of that location and other facilities.
“Before, the public could use the Old Stadium if the military wasn’t,” said Nin Phirum, a military officer working at the stadium. “Now the time is divided between the military and the national teams.”
The field and other indoor facilities at the Old Stadium will be entirely closed to the public until after the national sporting competition in December, according to Nin Phirum.
After that, playing time at the stadium will be shared by military and national teams, with the public getting the leftovers. Nin Phirum added that the public sometimes has to ask permission or pay a fee to use the field.
Since the stadium closed, people still come to play sports, Nin Phirum said.
Some schools like the Secondary School for Physical Education and Sport are now being used for national team practices.
And with the school facilities more in demand, the regulations governing their use are also changing.
Before the close of the stadium, the public could use the school between 5 am and 7 am, but now the national teams use it during this time.