Prime Minister Hun Sen reaffirmed that Cambodia’s primary purpose in hosting this year’s 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games is not about claiming medals, but about organising a friendly, safe competition, and offering hospitality to all of the Kingdom’s guests, so they have a chance to experience the true heart of Cambodia.

Speaking at the June 7 groundbreaking ceremony of the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway and bridge across the Mekong River, he recalled the Kingdom’s record breaking run to fourth on the medal table at the recent 32nd SEA Games.

“We secured 81 gold, 74 silver and 127 bronze medals, one below Indonesia, who returned home with 87 gold, 80 silver and 109 bronze medals. But if we look at the total number of medals, we won 282, six more than the Indonesian team,” he explained.

For the 12th ASEAN Para Games, currently underway in the Kingdom, the prime minister expected Indonesia to top the medal table, predicting that even Vietnam and Thailand, who were first on the SEA Games table, would be unable to compete with them.

“At the Para games, Indonesia will take first place. They have a population of over 200 million and have sent a very large, very strong team. Her gold medal tally is untouchable – not by Vietnam, Thailand or the Philippines,” he said.

“We are not focussing on medals as a priority. Our main goal is to ensure that the competition is friendly and safe, and that all of our guests enjoy our hospitality. We are not charging them to compete, nor for food and accommodation – Cambodia is a small country, but we have a big heart. We care deeply about our guests,” he added.

He said that after the para games come to an end on June 9, the sporting delegates and other international guests will return to their home countries. The measure of the Kingdom’s success as hosts will be that they are all return home safely, with fond memories of Cambodia.

“This is how we will measure our success. I have said before that money can always be spent, but our honour, reputation and the respect we have earned will last for generations,” he added.

He confirmed that Cambodia will certainly step up to host the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games again.

As a member of ASEAN, Hun Sen initiated the idea of the ASEAN bloc bidding for hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup, and then assembling a combined football team to contest it.

“We want to strengthen unity among the more than 600 million people of ASEAN, and encourage closer people-to-people relations through sports. This is the basis for the concept of an ASEAN football side,” he explained.

He expressed his confidence that ASEAN would be able to select the best players from each of the bloc’s members, suggesting that the team may well be able to compete with the Chinese football squad, which is drawn from a population of around 1.4 billion.

“I believe that in the future, it is entirely possible that ASEAN will bid for the FIFA World Cup, or perhaps the Olympic Games. This is my vision, but I think Cambodia’s successful hosting of major sporting events this year has shown what is possible. I hope that other countries will join us in considering this idea,” he concluded.