Sorn Seavmey, the teenage taekwondo athlete who turned national celebrity after winning Cambodia’s first gold medal at the Asian Games, will not be appearing in any advertisements from alcohol or tobacco companies, despite being deluged with gifts and endorsement deals following her unprecedented victory.
According to officials from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, Seavmey, and all other athletes registered with the committee, would not be appearing in such ads in order to conform to existing rules established by the International Olympic Charter, said Nhan Sokvisal, Seavmey’s manager.
Seavmey said the deal was also to support public health.
“If we appear in ads for beer or tobacco, that means we also use them,” Seavmey told the Post before attending an endorsement ceremony for the mobile carrier Cellcard.
But the announcement does not mark the end of the National Olympic Committee’s lucrative sponsorship deal with Angkor Beer, or donations to Seavmey from that company.
On November 1, she expects to be at a ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Sofitel hosted by Angkor Beer, which will give her $10,000.
“You may see me in a photo on November 1 with top government delegates and the company at dining tables with beers around, but you will not see me holding beer in my hands to cheer. I don’t use alcohol at all,” Seavmey said.
She said she plans to donate 40 per cent of the proceeds to a separate foundation set up in her name by the Cambodia News Channel to support medical causes.
“They can donate to her, but not for commercial purposes, we cannot allow that,” said Sokvisal, her manager, speaking about alcohol and tobacco companies.
Besides the $20,000 reward for the gold medal from the government, Seavmey has already received donations from Angkor Beer and NagaWorld, along with $10,000, a laptop, and an iPad from Prime Minister Hun Sen – not to mention a free pass on the university entrance exam.
Angkor Beer is a major backer of the National Olympic Committee, and has given $300,000 over the years, said secretary-general Vath Chamroeun, adding that Angkor was “very, very happy” when Seavmey won her medal at only 19.
Dr Yel Daravuth, technical officer at the World Health Organization, praised Seavmey’s endorsement but criticised the widespread use of celebrities to endorse alcohol. “We would like to see more celebrities and movie stars be a model.”
While television, radio, and billboard advertisements for tobacco are prohibited, a draft law currently under discussion would extend the ban to alcohol as well.
Daravuth said the alcohol law, which establishes 21 as the legal drinking age, would be submitted to the Council of Ministers by the end of the year or early next year.
“They [youth] drink too much, they drink a lot.”