Amid growing countrywide excitement, the inaugural National Games are to officially open on Friday with a spectacular opening ceremony.
The Games are set to pave the way for the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia’s pivot towards a structured approach to sports administration and competitions.
In the wake of Cambodia’s qualification to the prestigious Suzuki Cup after a gap of eight years, football takes pride of place among team events, with Rio Olympic qualifer Sorn Seavmey’s stardom lifting the profile of taekwondo among with individual events.
Ahead of the opening ceremony, competition in football will kick off today at two venues, Bati Center and the Royal University of Phnom Penh grounds. Events in volleyball, basketball, table tennis and taekwondo are already underway.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is likely to begin the torch relay, with 1960s athlete Keo Thun named as the torch bearer during the opening ceremony, which will also feature demonstrations of several forms of Cambodian martial arts including l’bokator
“The National Games would not only show case our sporting excellence and unite the country on a platform of sports but it is also a reflection of our rich cultural heritage,” said NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun.
As many as 2,700 athletes and coaches along with 548 technical officials will take part in 15 disciplines spread across 189 categories, making it one of the biggest sporting events ever held on a national scale.
The performances of the athletes will be closely monitored by an expert committee that has been entrusted with the task of picking the most talented who can then be systematically trained for major regional and international events to represent the country.
At a joint news conference earlier this week, secretary of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Sean Borat, the director-general of Sports Ouk Sethycheat and the NOCC secretary-general appealed to athletes past and present, the general population and the media to ensure the success of the inaugural games.