More than 40,000 people attended the formal opening ceremony of the 3rd National Games and the 1st National Paralympic Games on Monday night, with traditional performances and fireworks lighting up the sky to offer a taste of the experiences ahead of hosting the regional SEA Games next year.
More than 1,000 bodyguards performed a variety of artistic performances at Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. Approximately 500 Cambodian ladies performed traditional Laos and Khmer dances as martial arts fighters performed bokator to a backdrop of colorful fireworks.
There were about 3,500 performers at the launch of the 3rd National Games and 1st National Para Games, which will be held under the theme "sports bring peace and development" from November 19 to 30 with five venues used, including Phnom Penh, Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap.
According to Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth, and Sports, the 3rd National Games will have 38 sports, 356 events, and 4,336 athletes.
The Games will feature athletes from 15 provinces competing in sports, including athletics, swimming, basketball, wheelchair volleyball, table tennis and badminton.
Naron said that the 32nd SEA Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games in 2023 are two events that the National Games and National Para Games aim to prepare athletes for by raising the abilities of competitions at the national level.
“The events of the National Games and National Para Games aim to improve the quality of the organization of national competitions and to reach the standard of regional competitions, as well as to prepare well and win a lot of medals in the 32nd SEA Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games 2023,” Naron said.
Naron added that the events also seek to give all national sports federations a chance to strengthen the competence of trained technical officers by allowing them to participate in the organizing and judging of the real competition on the field.
In a speech at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen noted that this national sporting event is important for Cambodia and continues the growth of the talent, professionalism, and capacity of Cambodian athletes to be ready for international competition. There are 167 days before the country hosts the 2023 SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games, he said.
Hun Sen added that connections, friendship, and solidarity are all strengthened through participation in sports, and helps to increase social capital and promote societal peace.
Aside from inspiring the general public to love and support sports, sporting events also offer a great opportunity for the exchange of techniques and experiences that are part of the national cultural heritage and martial arts. This helps to boost the reputation of the country's sports on an international stage.
“Sports have a vital role in enhancing physical health, encouraging mental health, increasing productivity, lowering emotional stress, and increasing family happiness,” Hun Sen said.
Hun Sen also gave four key points for athletes to follow that encourage them to follow the rules of sports competitions in order to promote fairness, dignity, and professional ethics in competition.
He added that to encourage public and private media to actively participate in media campaigns inside and beyond the nation on "one person plays one sport at least," "Visit Cambodia 2023," "Together for a Clean Cambodia," and "Sports Live in Peace."
The education ministry must diversify sports activities in order to promote sports in the country and boost the integration of sports into the economy, particularly sports tourism, a green tourism that helps secure long-term peace in the region, Hun Sen said.
He urged the Cambodian National Olympic Committee and the Cambodia SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC) to increase technical cooperation and provide as much training as possible to Cambodian athletes in order for Cambodian athletes to attend international events in the future.