Prime Minister Hun Sen considers the recent passing of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) flag from hosts Vietnam to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) – and the record breaking medal haul from the 31st SEA Games – to be the climax of Cambodian sport so far.
“We just received the flag which signifies our readiness to host the upcoming 2023 SEA Games. It was borne home by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.
“With the flag came a proud array of the Kingdom’s medal winning athletes. We brought home gold, silver and bronze – in greater numbers than ever before. This is a historic turning point and we have reached a point where our sporting culture is as strong as it has ever been,” he said.
Hun Sen delivered his special address to the nation as he wrapped up the 2022 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 25, the day after the Cambodian delegation had returned to Phnom Penh with the SEA Games flag.
“I would like to thank my compatriots, the athletes and the leaders who paraded the SEA Games flag – as well as the medals – upon their return to the homeland. The SEA Games will be held right here in 2023, and we have been planning for it for many years,” he said.
Following the arrival ceremony for the flag and the medal winners at Phnom Penh International Airport, Khon, who is also NOCC president, and Vath Chamroeun – NOCC secretary-general and chief of mission at the recent SEA Games – presented the flag of the Southeast Asian Sports Federation to Tea Banh, who is also president of Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC).
Tea Banh then led a celebratory motorcade across Phnom Penh, leaving the airport and heading down Russian Federation Blvd towards Independence Monument before returning to the NOCC headquarters.
During the procession, many people gathered on roadsides all along the parade route to celebrate. It was a double opportunity for national pride, as not only did the presence of the flag signify the Kingdom’s readiness to host the biennial multi-sports event, but the parade was a chance to toast the athletes who performed so well at the Vietnam games and returned with a record setting tally of medals – nine gold, 13 silver and 41 bronze.
“Today, people all across the country are extremely happy and very proud of the new chapter the Kingdom has opened. Our hosting of the 32nd SEA Games signals a huge step forward in history, sports diplomacy and national prestige,” Tea Banh said during the flag parade.
“On this occasion, I call on all compatriots – living inside or outside the country – to be fully prepared on behalf of the host nation. We should be ready to welcome the Southeast Asian sports delegates and international guests from all over the world with friendly smiles and the famously gentle and dignified attitudes of the Cambodian people, who live in complete peace and development in all areas,” he added.