More than 10,000 men, women and children from 78 countries took part in the 28th Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2023, held in Siem Reap province’s world famous Angkor Archaeological Park on December 3. The field was described as the largest seen since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thong Khon, senior minister in charge of promoting the development of sports and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), noted that the Kingdom has held the event since 1996.
“This year’s race, the 28th we have held, featured 10,154 participants, including 3,654 foreign runners from 78 countries, the majority of them from the UK, US and Europe,” he said.
“This is one of our largest annual sports tourism events. Held against the unique backdrop of Angkor, it promotes fun, friendship and solidarity among runners from all over
the world. Cambodia is now one of the safest, most important tourist destinations, and provides a warm welcome to all guests, thanks to the peace, political stability, and development in all sectors that we all enjoy today,” he added.
Khon described how the government has devised and launched the Siem Reap-Angkor Tourism Development Master Plan 2021-35. The plan’s strategic goal is to develop the Angkor Wat Temple and its surrounding areas as a famous world heritage site in a sustainable way. The plan is in line with the concept of “conservation for development, development for conservation”.
The former tourism minister recalled that during the Covid-19 period, the government invested heavily in infrastructure development in the Angkor area. It constructed 38 roads in Siem Reap and boosted cooperation with Japan, in order to prepare Siem Reap town to become a “Smart City”.
In addition, the recent opening of the new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI) has made it easier for international tourists to this famous heritage destination via direct flights.
“Cambodia is certainly a tourist destination, but we have traditionally been viewed as a ‘satellite destination’ because flights to here have come from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Malaysia or Singapore. Now, we can accept direct flights from Europe, the US and other distant countries. This makes Angkor – and Cambodia as a whole – a more convenient destination for many international travellers,” said Khon.
“We expect to see more participants next year. The NOCC is working with many partners, especially the Olympic committees of other countries, to bring more runners to the event. We hope the number of participants in 2024 will increase to 15,000,” he added.
He described the 28th half marathon as a reflection of the long-standing friendship between the NOCC and the Golden Heart foundation of Japan, which co-founded the event. It also celebrated the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Japan diplomatic relations.
“Cambodia and Japan first established formal diplomatic relations in 1953, and 70 years later, in 2023, the two countries have raised the level of bilateral relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, the highest level of strategic partnership. Japan is one of the leading countries in providing grants to Cambodia and loans for development,” he said.
“We look forward to more direct flights to and from Japan. We expect to see the growth of Japanese tourism arrivals, as well as those from other major markets. I highly appreciate the efforts of the Golden Heart Foundation, which has worked closely with the NOCC to sustain this international event for 28 years. The half marathon promotes humanity, poverty reduction, tourism growth and wider participation in sports. Let this cooperation continue forever,” he added.