First launched five years ago in the port city of Sihanoukville to mark Cambodia’s membership into the 1,000 Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, the Sea Festival marks a culturally significant mass movement in the national calendar traditionally reserved for special annual celebratory events embedded in the Kingdom’s way of life.
The festival in all its grandeur and appeal returns to the place of its birth this weekend, for the first time at the famous Independence Beach from the previous venue of Ochhuteal Beach, for the three-day festival to be held on December 23, 24 and 25.
The heady mixture of culture, cuisine and sporting gala is expected to draw unprecedented crowds, estimated to be between 100,000 to a quarter of a million people from all over the country.
Last year Kep and Kampot jointly hosted the Festival after Koh Kong’s turn in 2014, completing the country’s nearly 1,600km coastal circuit.
The festivities were cancelled in 2012 following the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk in October of that year.
“Respect for the sea and the environment is the main message we would like to convey through this festival,” secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.
“The membership of the elite 1,000 Most Beautiful Bays Club also places great responsibility on us in the protection and preservation of our long and beautiful coastline, which has sustained both human and marine life for ages.
“Security will be one of our main concerns this year. With the Festival growing in popularity and attracting people in big numbers, crowd control, traffic, public safety and transport are some of the key areas that are bound to be stretched to the limit.
“With the help of several federal, law enforcement and private agencies we are doing our best to ensure the smooth running of the Festival,” the NOCC secretary-general said, adding that at least 2000 additional security personnel will be deployed to bolster the safety and security cover.
While there are many external challenges hovering over the festival, the massive scale and scope of the event itself is generating great excitement.
Sensing the mood of the sporting public and Cambodians’ well known penchant for contact sports, especially boxing, mixed martial art bouts have been introduced for the first time.
Beach football, beach wrestling, volleyball, l’bokator, taekwondo and cycling form the bulk of the sports action. For sea-adventure seekers there will be jet skiing, paragliding and open swimming alongside sailing.