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Asian Games open floodgates

Cambodian boxers Phal Sophat (left) and Svay Ratha perform some punching drills under the watchful eye of coach Van Sophal during a training session yesterday morning at the Athlete’s Village in Guangzhou ahead of the Asian Games fights next week. Ken Gadaffi

All is set for today’s grand opening of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou under the theme ‘Thrilling Games, Harmonious Asia.’ This year’s tournament will be the biggest in the history of the event, according to the Olympic Council of Asia.

The official the official figure of 9,704 athletes - 184 more than the 9,520 who competed in Doha four years ago – was confirmed at a Chefs De Mission meeting on Wednesday by Haider A. Farman, Manager of the OCA’s Asian Games Department. 4,750 team officials are also present in the Southern Chinese city.

At the officials meeting, Farman gave praise to the efforts of the organizing committee in deciding to broadcast more live sports events and increase the number of outside broadcast vans to expand the coverage. “Team sports such as football and volleyball will benefit greatly from this broadcasting move,” he said,

Today’s opening ceremony is expected to be spectacular showpiece according to Chen Weiya, the show director. Weiya stated that the organizing committee drew experience from the successful staging of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, however, he noted today’s extravaganza will be remarkable because of the role of water.

“The opening ceremony will start with a drop of water from the Pearl River,” he said. “There will be a 170-metre long fountain matrix, the longest one in the world. There will also be a huge area for performance, including a 3-metre deep area which has never been seen before.”

The director also highlighted the uniqueness of Haixinsha as the location for the pageant. The site which is shaped like a boat is said to represent the spirit of the Guangdong people. “The opening ceremony will go out of a stadium, with a pearl river as the stage and the whole city as the backdrop. It will be an ‘open opening ceremony,” he added.

Cambodia’s 38-man delegation will file out sixth of the 45 nations taking part in the traditional parade. 21-year-old men’s taekwondo star Chhoy Bouthorn will lead the team out by carrying the Kingdom’s flag. The opening ceremony is scheduled to commence at 8pm Cambodian time.

Atheletes get straight into training
After a warm welcome from officials of the Games organizing committee on arrival in Guangzhou on Tuesday evening, the Cambodian contingent were quickly accredited and checked into the Athletes Village, located right in the middle of the metropolis.

At 6am, the athletes were woken to hit the training fields and begin their acclimatisation to the cooler air in Guangzhou.

The volleyball team, comprising of Mon Rom, Nget Sothearith, Samath Vann Sak and Taing Mengheak, squared themselves up under the watchful eyes of coach Ky Mengham, while boxers Phal Sophat and Svay Ratha, went through drills with coach Ven Sophal.

Meanwhile, wrestler Chum Chivinn, who is still nursing a thigh injury sustained in training, did some light jogging around the Games Village. The SEA Games silver medalist has been entered for the 120kg wrestling and will have to shed off about 5 kilograms before his opening bout on November 21.

National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun arrived at the Cambodian camp at about 3pm on Wednesday and held a briefing with the coaches and team officials on their preparations and readiness for their events. All coaches were then given updates on their various venues and events schedules.

Voices from the Cambodian camp
“I am quite lucky to be here in Guangzhou,” said boxer Phal Sophat after training on Wednesday evening. “I really enjoyed today’s training, and I am looking forward to the start of the competitions.” His sparing partner Svay Ratha said: “I hope to do well. I want to have a good start and I will try my best to perform well.” Both Boxers will enter the ring next Tuesday, and eagerly await the names of their opponents, with the draw to be held after the opening ceremony.

Tennis duo Bun Kenny and Orn Sambath play their first matches tomorrow in the team event at the AOTI tennis arena.

Bun Kenny, who scored his first ATP points recently, will be looking to improve his ranking with a good run at the Games.

“I don’t know if I can win a medal here. For sure I want to give my best, but improving on my ranking will be a huge success for me,” he said. The lads are not new to China, and will not be intimidated by the crowd and the field, featuring some of Asia’s best tennis players.

“I have been training hard, and we learnt a lot during our tournament in Shanghai, so we will not be afraid of any player,” said Orn Sambath echoed.

Bun Kenny and Orn Sambath start off with the team events before splitting to take part in the Singles, and then team up together again to play the doubles. However, they faced a tough task after being drawn yesterday against the Chinese Taipei team of Chei Ti and Lu Yen Shui.

Hem Thon Ponloeu and his niece Hem Thon Vitiny are also set to honour Cambodia’s legendary swimmer and grandfather, Hem Thon, as they hit the pool on Saturday morning. Both are competing in the 50m freestyle and breaststroke events.

“I feel happy to be here. I have been training for this for a long time and will do my best,” said Vitiny after a workout yesterday morning. “I don’t hold too much hope personally, but as an athlete, I hope I can get one medal. It doesn’t matter which one.”

Ponloeu said he meant business in Guangzhou. “This is an important competition, so we are taking it very seriously and want to prepare for our first round on very well,” he said.

Taekwondo coach Choi Yongsok is quite optimistic that his wards will go far in the Games, but hopes they will avoid his home country in the draw. The Korean-born coach, who accompanied the four-strong Cambodian taekwondo team in South Korea for six months training prior to the Games, would be happy to see his adopted country beat his homeland, but thinks the Korean’s experience will prove too much. The draw will be made on Monday.

“I have confidence on my athletes, we have trained hard in Korea for six months and I am sure they will do well in this Game,” said Choi.

“We haven’t started training since we arrived. We have been trying to locate our venue and to find out the scheduled time for our training. Hopefully we will resume after the opening ceremony.”



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