Cambodia’s 2018 Asian Games campaign in Jakarta-Palembang began on Thursday as 12 members of the 71-strong squad departed from Phnom Penh International Airport.
Indonesia, a country of some 260 million people is gearing up for a colossal opening ceremony involving 5,000 performers on Saturday evening at the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium in Jakarta, amid unprecedented security measures involving 100,000 police and soldiers.
The first of the Cambodian contingent included seven members of the taekwondo team, including 22-year-old Sorn Seavmey, who will be defending her gold medal from Incheon in South Korea four years ago, the first the Kingdom has ever won in more than 60 years in the second biggest multi-discipline event in the world after the Olympics.
The taekwondo sensation will also be the Kingdom’s flag bearer during the parade of the teams.
Fellow taekwondoka Cassandra Nicole Tubbs, a Texan with a Cambodian mother who has been part of the national team since 2016, is set to join her five teammates and two coaches, flying directly to the Games from her training base in South Korea.
For the first time the Asian Games will be co-hosted by two cities – the capital Jakarta and, nearly 1,000 miles away, Palembang, the chief city of South Sumatra province.
The Kingdom’s advance party also included three officials, one from the Ministry of Education and two from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia headquarters along with NOCC attache Dr Ken Gadaffi and Dr Sdeoum Chea.
The taekwondo technical delegation meeting will be held on Friday, while the competition starts the day after Saturday’s opening ceremony spectacular.
Cambodia’s chef de mission Sok Visal and a member of the NOCC HQ staff, Sor Malay, were already in Jakarta to deal with delegate registration. The official team welcoming ceremony was held on Thursday.
Secretary-general of the NOCC Vath Chamroeun and the rest of the contingent will leave for Indonesia on Friday.
In an exclusive interview with The Post, the organisation’s top administrator said on Thursday that the Kingdom’s attention was focused on Seavmey (pictured, AFP) delivering another golden moment for the chronicles of Cambodian sport.
Lessons for 2023
“We had such a long and painful wait until 2014 when Seavmey finally brought home our first ever Asian Games gold medal. At the heart of our mission is for her to defend that glory and make the country proud,” Chamroeun said.
“Of the 40 events that are on offer, we are competing in 13 disciplines.
“We expect big things from taekwondo, and our other medal hopes lie in jet skiing, jujitsu and soft tennis, which of late has been showing great promise in many regional and international events.”
Overall, our aim is to see Cambodian athletes improve their performances in every discipline we have entered. We also want accompanying officials to gain useful knowledge from this mega event so that those experiences can be harnessed when we prepare for our biggest sporting challenge – the 2023 SEA Games in Phnom Penh,” he said.
All the venues are ready and tested, organisers have said, with only final beautification work being carried out for Saturday’s big moment.
According to Indonesia’s Sports Ministry Secretary Gatot S Dewa Broto, the opening ceremony has been planned with a mythological theme, flying performers and – aptly for a country in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” with dozens of active volcanoes – a mountain set to erupt.
The Opening ceremony stage is 120 metres long, 30 metres wide and 26 metres high. It will showcase the towering mountain as its background, accompanied by an array of Indonesia’s uniquely beautiful plants and flowers.
The 18th Asian Games, which run until September 2, are to feature 12,000 athletes, support staff and officials, and attract nearly 5,000 journalists.