SEA Games Racks Up $100m Bill

Cambodia is spending more than $100 million to host the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games - a moment the nation has waited 60 years for due to war and a lack of infrastructure
The formal opening ceremony of the 3rd National Games and the 1st National Paralympic Games. Kiripost via Cambodia2023
The formal opening ceremony of the 3rd National Games and the 1st National Paralympic Games. Kiripost via Cambodia2023

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the expenses of hosting the Southeast Asian Games 2023 and ASEAN Para Games 2023 will be more than $100 million, and past delays have been due to lack of funds and infrastructures.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, Hun Sen said that the government has frozen up some budgets for three consecutive years - $40 million each - to spend on the 32nd SEA Games, held from May 5 to 17, and 12th ASEAN Para Games from June 3 to 9, under the slogan ‘Sports: Live In Peace’.

“This is a big event and we must also spend a lot of money,” Hun Sen said. Despite China having funded the new stadium, the government is responsible for other expenditures. “The spending will be more than $100 million for this competition,” he added.

The $160 million Moradok Techo National Stadium officially opened in December 2021.

Hun Sen said that people have asked him when neighboring Laos was able to host the SEA games in 2009 and why Cambodia was not.

He said that hosting the games is an obligation as an ASEAN member and he had also asked ASEAN leaders to delay Cambodia hosting the games in the past, which is not abnormal.

“At the time, our money was supposed to do water canals, roads, schools and hospitals,” Hun Sen said, adding that former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono supported him when he had asked to delay hosting the games in 2011.

“Now, it is the time for us to host the SEA Games,” Hun Sen said.

He added that on Wednesday, the country will begin the 100 day countdown to the Games, a hosting that the country has been waiting 60 years for due to civil war and lack of infrastructure.

Hun Sen said that he may be in between ASEAN meetings in Indonesia and the hosting of the games in June. However, he added that he will be able to attend the opening and closing ceremonies.

He added that the hosting of the Games came after Cambodia hosted the virtual Asia Europe Summit in 2021 and the routine chair of ASEAN last year, with Timor Leste having been approved to become a member of the bloc.

He said that responsibilities as the host is not just to win medals but also to guarantee the security and safety of attendees so they can enjoy the games.

The 100-day countdown will form part of a national movement. King Norodom Sihamoni will officially light a torch in Siem Reap and in March the torch will be carried through provinces as it makes its way to the capital.

The SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC) said the countdown will begin at 4pm at Moradok Techo National Stadium, with a performance of about 1,000 artists and sports teams.

Vath Chamroeun, Chief Executive Officer of CAMSOC, said that the countdown is under the theme “Cambodia is Ready” and that with 100 days more to go, the country is between 70 and 80 percent ready.