A top Cambodian sports official has suggested that the return of the June 19 Phnom Penh International Half Marathon in front of the Royal Palace would be a good time to promote the journey to Cambodia’s historic hosting of its first SEA Games in 2023.

The event also marked the reopening of major sport tournaments in the country, as the government has allowed spectators to watch events at the nation’s arenas and stadiums without restrictions.

However, Vath Chamroeun – secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and chairman of the event organising committee – did not expect an increase in the number of foreign or domestic athletes who will participate when compared to the last pre-Covid-19 edition, held in 2019. The most important thing, he said, is that Cambodia organises the event well and uses it to promote preparations for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

“As for the tourism situation, we have seen a resurgence, but the recovery remains slow because there are still many obstacles in the global tourism chain,” he said in a June 10 press conference.

“We expect that people from abroad will come to participate, mostly from Asia, because this is a month when Europeans rarely travel. We expect runners from Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore to attend. There are 3,410 foreign runners who are attending, which is a good sign that the event is returning to normal.”

The event is organised to celebrate the June 18 birthday of Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and to raise funds – from the registration of athletes, and sponsors – to donate to charitable organisations. Kantha Bopha Hospital will benefit, and corporate social responsibility work will be undertaken through many other partner organisations as well. The event does not aim to make a profit.

Sem Phalla, general manager of the Phnom Penh International Half Marathon, confirmed that the international race has distances of 21km, 10km and 3km, and that the 21km race will start at 5:30am on June 19.

Next year, the organising committee intends to change the 3km to 5km and add a 2.5km for children. This will align with their goal of teaching children to love sport while they are young and creating life-long athletes, he said.