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River festival sporting gala ends in Takhmao

Traditional boat racing was a highlight of the fourth River Festival this weekend. Supplied
Traditional boat racing was a highlight of the fourth Mekong River Festival this weekend. Sreng Meng Srun

River festival sporting gala ends in Takhmao

The three-day annual Mekong River Festival and multi-sport gala, which concluded today, attracted thousands of visitors to the Phnom Penh suburb of Takhmao this weekend.

Traditional kun Khmer kickboxing, open river swimming and Khmer chess were major attractions, alongside food courts, a Cambodian products expo, music and entertainment.

Launched in Kratie province three years ago, jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia in conjunction with local authorities and private sponsors and partners, Kampong Cham and Stung Treng hosted the next two festivals.

The fourth edition also served as a celebratory event to pay tribute to Asia’s seventh longest river, which originates in the Tibetan plateau and covers an estimated distance of 4,350 kilometres, flowing through China’s Yunan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia before merging with the sea in Vietnam.

For the thronging masses, there was plenty of sporting action, with a fun run kicking off the festivities on Friday morning.

Traditional boat racing built the excitement for the next two days, with dozens plunging into the river for a competitive swim, and bare-foot Kun Khmer fighters keeping the sweating masses entertained despite the hot and humid conditions.

Cambodian kickboxing style kun Khmer entertained the crowds in Takhmao.
Cambodian kickboxing style kun Khmer entertained the crowds in Takhmao. Sreng Meng Srun

The brawny wrestling and football had a huge following, and the brainy Khmer chess players matched their wits in a beautiful setting overlooking the river.

While the focus during the festival, sponsored this year by the Cambodia Beverage Company, was on highlighting the Mekong as a vital source of sustainable life and the role it has played over the centuries in shaping the lives of people living along its path, a huge cultural and commercial element was built into the celebrations.

“The Mekong provides a sustainable lifeline for thousands in Cambodia, and this three-day festival was to raise awareness among people to keep it pollution-free so that the communities can prosper from its enormous resources.

“It was also a venue for people to enjoy three days of a festival atmosphere, with sport, music, food and entertainment all around, and a major boost for eco-tourism,” secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun said.

Khmer chess was one of the more cerebral events on show at the 2018 River Festival.
Khmer chess was one of the more cerebral events on show at the 2018 River Festival. Sreng Meng Srun

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