The curtain came down on Cambodia’s biggest multi-discipline event in nearly five decades at a colourful closing ceremony at Olympic Stadium on Monday night as the 2nd National Games saw Ministry of Interior storm to the top of the medal table.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany graced a glitzy closing ceremony that showcased the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage, while a heady mix of contemporary music and entertainment was accompanied by a high-tech laser show and a spectacular fireworks display.
Addressing another mammoth crowd, one that matched the size and enthusiasm of the May 25 opening ceremony, the prime minister characterised the games as a symbol of peace and development.
“Standing proudly in this iconic venue today, we cannot forget our late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who built this large and beautiful stadium in the early 1960s so massive events like this could be held,” Hun Sen said.
“He left us this legacy when it comes to infrastructure and we need to keep developing it all around the country.”
Calling on the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, who jointly organised the Games, to strengthen their coordination and cooperation, the prime minister said he hoped to see not just provinces but also the commune and district levels help in the development of sport.
While commending the athletes, officials, administrators, spectators, performers and all those involved with the Games, he urged authorities to encourage more athletes to take part in sporting competitions.
“I hope Pailin, which could not win a medal this time, will win [something at the next Games] in two years’ time,” Hun Sen quipped, to laughter.
President of the NOCC and Minister of Tourism Thong Khon made a strong case for creating more sports development programs in weaker provinces so the gap in strength between them and teams like those from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of National Defense, Phnom Penh and other successful provinces could be bridged.
While thanking major sponsors like Smart Axiata, Khmer Beverages, FBT and the National Lottery, among other partners, the NOCC chief said support from the corporate sector and private business communities was vital in growing sport nationwide.
NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun added: “We are extremely happy with the massive turnout for both the opening and closing ceremonies. In terms of some of the innovative ideas we tried out for the first time, the outcome was very encouraging.
“It was a big logistical challenge and we were able to handle it well. I think we have learnt some important lessons and we hope to keep getting better.”
While the NOCC was pleased with its handling of the opening and closing ceremonies, which cost an estimated $600,000, there was some criticism of the Ministry of Sport from followers of the Games, some media outlets and even competitors about the late release of results in certain disciplines and a total absence of them in many others.
As one Games follower put it: “With 27 disciplines going on, we could only get the odd result here and there, and then mainly on social media. There seemed to be a total disconnect. I can’t understand why. The medal table doesn’t tell you much – they’re just numbers.’’
With 25 provinces and three ministries represented at the Games, run at a cost of nearly six billion riel ($1.5 million), the race for gold was won by a wide margin by the Ministry of Interior over closest rivals Phnom Penh.
Top 5 medal-winning teams
Ministry of Interior 83 gold, 43 silver, 23 bronze
Phnom Penh 42-36-46
Ministry of National Defense 33-18-16
Prey Veng 10-16-17