THE ROYAL Government has approved the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia’s proposal to host the 2023 SEA Games, clearing the path for the Kingdom to realise a dream that was shattered in 1963.
The nod for what will be the Kingdom’s biggest sports spectacle came four days ago with the blessing of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Within hours of the offic-ial letter of approval landing at NOCC headquarters in Phnom Penh, the news was splashed over social-media websites including Facebook.
The NOCC will formally place its bid for the biennial event — the second-largest in the region after the Asian Games — before a 2015 SEA Games Executive Council meeting in Singapore.
“It’s just a matter of procedure, and the Executive Council’s approval is a mere formality ,” NOCC secretary- general Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.
“We’re already halfway through a master plan co-ordinated by several ministries including Education, Transport, Tourism, Health, Fin-ance and Human Resources.
“Allowing a margin for inflation and cost escalation over the next 10 years, we are estimating the organisational cost at three to four million dollars.
“But creating the infrastructure and developing human resources will cost us a lot more.
“Ten years may seem a faraway thought, but we need that time to be absolutely ready on all fronts, and the work has already begun.”
Chamroeun said transport and human-resource management would be pivotal areas.
Under the master plan, the NOCC will create infrastructure including the main stadium while upgrading all other facilities for a two-week event that attracts thousands of athletes and officials from the 11 ASEAN nations.
NOCC president and Toursim Minister Thong Khon said: “I am very happy that the uncertainty about the SEA Games has been cleared. I am thankful to the Government and the Prime Minister for taking this huge step.”
Of the five founder members of the SEA Games, Cambodia is the only one to have missed out on its rotation as a host. The Original Five, as they are known – Thailand, Burma (now Myanmar), Mal-aya (now Malaysia), Laos and Cambodia — created a peninsular vision in 1959 that eventually led to the birth of the SEA Games.
But history took a devious turn. Cambodia was awarded the 1963 edition, but political instability and financial constraints at the time contrived with other extraneous factors, forcing the country to step back as a host.
Conditions were even worse when Cambodia was offered a chance to stage the 1966 Games. Since then, the Kingdom has only been a guest at this coveted regional sporting assembly, having been forced to turn down several invitat-ions to hold it on home soil.
Troubled times in the 1970s and ’80s, and painful rebuilding in the ’90s, shut down all possibilities of the country taking on such a mammoth responsibility.
Every member country in the ASEAN community has made it clear that Cambodia would be granted the hosting rights any time it is ready, even if it were to be another member nation’s turn.
The NOCC is measuring up its own high expectations of staging the Games with the realities on the ground.
The country’s prime sports body reckons 10 years should be long enough to achieve the organisational excellence to make the 2023 edition a unique experience.
As part of its infrastructure expansion, Phnom Penh’s second multi-purpose stad-ium is taking shape.
Modern office space for all the NOCC-affiliated federat-ions has been created under one roof within the National Sports Complex, surrounding the Olympic Stadium.
Cambodia’s resolve to stage the Games has never been higher. Ten more years of waiting for this landmark may well be worthy enough to wipe clean the frustrations of the past 50.