With the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games approaching, officials have reiterated their intention to ensure that the Kingdom’s 64-year wait to host the biennial multi-sports extravaganza this May will end with a historic success.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has also urged the people to use the event as an opportunity to showcase the Kingdom’s unity and development to the tens of thousands of foreigners who will be attending.

Cambodia began the countdown to the biggest sporting event it has ever hosted on the evening of January 25, with youths across the country joining in the blissful and jubilant revelry. The 100-day countdown was officially launched at Morodok Techo National Stadium, in an event presided over by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh.

“I want every one of my countrymen to see the hosting of the games as part of a national movement,” Hun Sen said while presiding over a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on January 26.

“It is about more than just sports. Nearly ten thousand foreigners will compete at the upcoming games, but many more will be here as supporters and fans. We must make sure that they receive the warmest hospitality,” he said.

Tea Banh, who also serves as chairman of the SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC), considered the countdown ceremony at the national stadium an historic event. The celebrations featured traditional and contemporary performances, including Kun L’bokator performances and many other entertaining spectacles.

“We have dreamt of hosting the games for 64 years, and our dream is about to come true. As the host, Cambodia has always stood firmly on the principles of cooperation, peace and equality. We will use our goodwill to build a common destiny in order to maintain peace and development in the region,” he said.

“To ensure that the events are a success, all state institutions – especially the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and National Sports Federation – have worked together to make certain that the games will adhere to international standards,” he added.

“Our ambition is to offer a warm welcome to all of the athletes and each of our international guests. We have planned transportation, accommodation, food and security for our visitors, and trust that one legacy of the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games will be fond memories of their time in Cambodia,” he continued.

He asked the chefs de mission of each of the ASEAN nations – who were present at the countdown ceremony –to support the success of the games, in the spirit of friendship, solidarity and close cooperation.

“I would like to thank all of the delegates and chefs de mission who came to honour Cambodia, as host. You have now seen the progress we have made with your own eyes. I hope that all of you will report what you have seen and are satisfied that Cambodia is ready to host the 32nd SEA Games from May 5-17, and the 12th ASEAN Para Games from June 3-9,” he concluded.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, who is also permanent vice-president of CAMSOC, said the historic games will leave an important positive legacy for the Olympic movement in Cambodia and the region.

“I strongly believe that CAMSOC is ready to provide the warmest hospitality to all the National Olympic Committee delegates,” added Khon, who is also NOCC president.

“With just 100 days remaining, Cambodia is about to make history by hosting its first ever SEA Games. ‘Sports: Live in Peace’ has been chosen as the motto of this event, and reflects the importance of peace to the Kingdom,” he concluded.

Van Kimsol, a young woman who works for a company in Phnom Penh, said she is looking forward to promoting the countdown to the games as a way of participating in a positive social movement.

“As youth, we should all learn as many details as possible about the upcoming games. That way we can contribute to the Kingdom’s successful hosting of this prestigious regional event. We need to spread the word about the games as far as possible, and the best way to do so is to make sure we understand as much as we can about it,” she said.

“We will all be representing Cambodia when other countries in the Asian region arrive for the games. We need to make sure that they see the true face of the Kingdom, and feel warmly welcomed and secure,” she continued.

Kimsol said young people should play sport as much as possible as it not only promotes good physical health and creates memories, but builds a spirit of teamwork and unity.

Sean Soloeuk, a fourth-year university student, said that although she is not very interested in sports, she is aware that the 100-day countdown to the games had begun.

“One thing that we can all do – even if we have very busy lives – is join the online countdown campaign. It doesn’t take much time, and nearly all young people have a smartphone nowadays,” she said.

“This event is a very big deal. The Kingdom has waited a long time to host the games, so it is worth finding out as much as we can, and sharing what we learn with our friends and families,” she said.