2023 SEA Games: Five Questions to Vath Chamroeun

Vath Chamroeun is Secretary-General at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and Secretary-General of the Cambodian SEA Games Organizing Committee. Photo: CAMSOC.

As Secretary-General at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and Secretary-General of the Cambodian SEA Games Organizing Committee, Vath Chamroeun sat down with Cambodianess to discuss the forthcoming 2023 Southeast Asian Games.



Ung Chamroeun: So far, in terms of the 2023 deadline, how ready is Cambodia regarding infrastructure and human resources to host the SEA Games?



Vath Chamroeun: CAMSOC [the Cambodian SEA Games Organizing Committee] has strategically built a very proper mechanism and plan in organizing the 2023 SEA Games. In terms of infrastructure, there seems to be no major barriers which might hinder the entire process. A newly-constructed Morodok Techo national stadium will be completed in May or June 2021. The entire stadium is 95 percent completed. The remaining percentage only accounts for the smaller sport areas which are yet to be constructed. Other sporting areas for the SEA Games are also being prepared both in the capital Phnom Penh, especially for larger games, as well as other provinces such as Preah Sihanouk Province, Kampot Province and Kep Province. The National Park of Kirirom will also be considered here. During the presence, we are also considering the province of Siem Reap, one of the largest tourism destinations in Cambodia, as some games will be played there as well.



Ung Chamroeun: How about the development of the human resources?



Vath Chamroeun: Our athletes, both female and male, will be our main actors in the SEA Games. We focus on their training as a way to achieve maximum quality, but one of our concerns is building capacity in terms of specialty. For the infrastructure, we can make it right away when we have enough money. However, for human resources, having money alone is not going to work. We have to have enough time, enough training and enough trainers with very careful direction. We have observed that our athletes have been training very actively toward the upcoming games. We encourage them to train and to do more research. On the other side is the training of sport officials such as judges or coaches. We have created training courses for them so that they can do more research.



CAMSOC is responsible for the operation of these upcoming games and is comprised of 14 different commissions all tasked with different duties, so finding organizers is not an obstacle, but in terms of athletes, we’re still quite limited. We have to put a lot of emphasis onto their weak points as well as their strengths which we do by transferring them to train overseas at the end of 2021 and throughout 2022. Overall, we’re 100 percent confident in our infrastructure, but less confident regarding the human resource element required for the games, I’d say on that side, we’re around 70 to 80 percent ready so far.



Ung Chamroeun: How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect Cambodia when hosting the SEA Games?



Vath Chamroeun: Well, this is a global issue that has hindered the Olympic Games all around the world, mainly in terms of the training processes. Although indirectly, the pandemic interferes with the mental state of our athletes, coaches as well as other experts. It affects their time in developing their specialty. Nevertheless, we stay strong, determined, and sharp and our athletes have maintained their physical energy during the global pandemic. COVID-19 has led some areas to be put under lockdown and due to this issue, we have encouraged our athletes to train by themselves from home.



For the last two years or so, the pandemic has created friction and prevented us from engaging in global competitions and in testing competitors. It leaves us struggling to measure our capacity and to discover more about our weak points and strong points but, at the end of the day, it is a global issue—all high-level sports are affected. 



Ung Chamroeun: With the passing of some admired elderly athletes who have helped and contributed immensely in the processes of organizing SEA Games in Cambodia, how will the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and CAMSOC show their gratitude to the legacies of these venerable athletes?



Vath Chamroeun: Teacher Hem Thon, Dr Sdeoung Chea and Keo Thun, as well as many other admired seniors, wished to see the opening of the SEA Games in Cambodia. Sadly, they did not live long enough to witness the event. They departed away from this world but we want to demonstrate our deep sense of gratitude toward them for the development of our national sports. Our teams have created video clips showcasing their finest moments which will be played as an inspiration at sporting events.



Ung Chamroeun: Do you have any comments for the related sports federations regarding the upcoming international games in the next two years?



Vath Chamroeun: In the next couple of years, Cambodia will host the SEA Games and the ASEAN Para Games. All related parties and sports federations must focus on developing their athletes’ performance. Because of COVID-19, the development of our athletes has slowed down, so I would like all of us to transform a disaster into an opportunity to reinforce the spirit of combat and training.



As soon as the situation calms down, we have to find the means to further build our capacity and the real quality of the sport. I would like all of us to unite in our family circle of national sports. We have to put all emotional and physical efforts towards the 2023 SEA Games which the government has been supporting along with other participants in the process of making this event a reality. We should come together in transforming this crisis into a success.


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