“I swear for a moment, time stops,” I said to my friend who sat next to me witnessing Cambodia’s history unfold in front of our eyes at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
My name is Sovann Tepy, I was a part of the protocol team volunteering for the 32nd SEA Games. In this blog, I will walk you through my thoughts and experiences from the beginning to the end of the SEA Games.
After I was invited to join many chat groups in Telegram, I was finally allocated to a team of 12 people who were in charge of tennis competitions. A day before the opening ceremony, our team was asked to gather at Morodok Techo Stadium early in the morning in order to avoid cooking ourselves in the sun. The goal was to get to know our team leaders and members, as well as familiarize ourselves with the halls and corners of the stadium itself.
If the word “women empowerment” is a team, it would definitely be ours because every person in my team was a woman, including two of my team’s leaders, until we were later introduced to a guy who wished to join our team and, of course, with open arms, we welcomed him in.
While I was trying to concentrate on what the protocol team leader was trying to say in terms of our roles and responsibilities, I felt as if the sun was right above my head. At that moment, I was dizzy and disappointed at my low-tolerance as I was already backing down on the first day, but I knew I was not going to let go of my chance in helping my country and witnessing this historic event.
Eventually, I got back on my feet, and we went on to practice handing the medals to the athletes because this is one of the main responsibilities of the protocol team. When the sun began to set, we decided to call it a day and save our energy for the opening ceremony the next day.
I returned home, prepared my uniform and deleted a few apps off my phone and spared my storage for the next day’s pictures. Tomorrow arrived, and we were informed the opening ceremony will start at 4pm, so my team spent the entire morning helping at the tennis hall and within a few hours before the ceremony, we helped check the seats and the lightsticks attached to the chairs to make sure they worked.
We were tasked with assisting the VIPs to their right seats during the ceremony. People occupied almost every seat within minutes and I was truly amazed at how committed everyone was to get a seat despite the scorching hot weather. The sweat that ran across my forehead was not for nothing.
The crowd’s never-ending cheering, the performers poured their love and devotion for Cambodia as they sang and danced, sweat dripped from every volunteer’s head were all moments worth remembering. The arrival of our prime minister and his wife was followed by a warm welcome from the audience, along with the beautiful fireworks, light show and countdown that officially declare the beginning of Cambodia's 32nd SEA Games.
The tale of the Birth of the Khmer Kingdom was told and demonstrated right in front of my eyes, the music, the choreography, the light show and the hard work the performers put in to deliver this to us and Cambodia was an extraordinary sight.
Before I even got the chance to breathe, the Wonder of Angkor was unfolding with people marching in and suddenly a picture of Angkor Wat was hovering in the air, the life of Khmer in the Angkor period was displayed and I forgot how to blink. I thought it could not get any better than this but then it did, it was as if I was brought back in time and if you take a shot every time I get goosebumps.
The feelings I experienced throughout the entire ceremony could not be described using mere words. I was walking through every generation of Cambodia while standing in one place and I have never ever been prouder to be born Cambodian. Every scene is embedded in my memories, the show that caught my eyes, the music that makes my heart race and the firework that sparks every atom in my body triggered the love and emotion I have for my country.
During the next 11 days, my team worked together through sweat and ointment to ensure that the tennis competition, the sport which we are assigned, ran smoothly and me and my team ended this spectacular journey with the closing ceremony. Now looking back, if I was given the chance to go back in time, I would do it without question.