Winning at sports costs money and the Cambodian government has been awarding a record amount of cash totaling nearly $1 million in prize money as Cambodia looks to improve its sporting chances and prepares to host the upcoming 2023 Southeast Asian Games for the first time.
Funds were presented during a ceremony at the Ministry of National Defence on December 26th, 2022. Attendees included Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh, National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) Chairman Thong Khon, NOCC Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun, representatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and other top sports officials.
Each of the Hanoi 2021 Southeast Asian Games gold medal-winning athletes received $9,729, silver medallists $7,296, and bronze medallists $3,899. In total 135 athletes and coaches received cash rewards from the government.
$841,242 was handed out, making it to date the biggest amount of prize money given out by the government to SEA Games athletes, in the hope it will inspire success in the next edition of the games.
Cambodia ready to host the 2023 SEA Games
The investment in athletes also comes on the back of numerous infrastructure that has been built for the 2023 South-East Asian Games, which will be hosted in Cambodia.
Cambodia was awarded the games at the SEA Games Federation meeting held in conjunction with the 2015 event in Singapore and has spent the last 8 years preparing for the event due to be held from the 5th-17th May.
It will also be the first time the event has been hosted in the country, with the government having a reported $30 million budget to host the games.
As such various infrastructural projects have been made, or are in progress. This has included the renovation of the National Olympic Stadium (in the process), as well as the building of the Morodok Techo National National Sports Complex.
The Morodok, which cost around $200 million to build was funded and built by China and will be the showcase venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.
On top of all this Cambodia is expecting a bumper amount of visitors during the period, particularly now that Covid restrictions are all, but going in the region, including China.
The last 31st edition of the games, held in Vietnam in early 2022 attracted over 35,000 foreign visitors, despite many Covid restrictions still being in place.
Best SEA Games performance
The record cash bonanza did not come from anywhere though, with Cambodia recording its best-ever performance at Hanoi 2021 Southeast Asian Games (actually held in 2022).
In total the Kingdom not only breached the 60 medal mark, winning 9 golds, 13 silvers, and 41 bronze medals. The nation also sent its largest-ever contingent to date, with 361 athletes traveling to Vietnam and competing in 33 of the 40 sports. The haul beat the previous record of 43 medals at the 2013 SEA Games held in Myanmar.
Vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art also popular in Cambodia and other countries in Southeast Asia, produced the most number of medals for Cambodia- 14. with three golds, two silvers, and nine bronzes.
Cambodia also managed seven medals in the slightly obscure sport of petanque, which Cambodia excels at.
A change in mentality
The massive cash prizes are a change from previous years when athletes received much less prize money. It also comes on the back of other big payouts, with sizeable cash rewards going to medal winners of a prestigious gymnastics competition in Thailand.
In addition, $57,000 has been handed out to Cambodian athletes, coaches, and other team officials who did well during the Aerobic Gymnastics Asian Championships 2022.
More money and indeed professionalism has also been pushed in several other sports. In 2022 Cambodia not only rebranded its top-tier football completion to the Cambodian Premier League but also introduced new concepts, such as club licensing, as well an increase in the total number of professional teams within the Kingdom.
In June, the Cambodia Wheelchair Basketball Federation (CWBF) has unveiled its national squad that is set to prepare for the 12th ASEAN Para Games 2023 during the federation’s inaugural general meeting at Prince Holding Group headquarters.
The momentous event brought together a diverse audience of nearly 200 people that included government leaders along with representatives from international chambers of commerce, local businesses, and civil society organizations.
CWBF has been showing promising transformation with a team of talented and resilient athletes. Together with strong support from Prince Foundation and federal leaders at all levels, the team has full confidence to take home national time victory.