The 12th ASEAN Para Games 2023 was officially opened tonight, marking history for the Kingdom of Cambodia as Phnom Penh joins seven other cities as host of the region’s biggest para sporting extravaganza at Morodok Techo Stadium here tonight.
It was Cambodia’s first ever hosting of the Games, which was incepted in 2001 under the governance of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF).
Phnom Penh now joins Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2001), Hanoi Vietnam (2003), Manila, Philippines (2005), Korat, Thailand (2007), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2009), Solo, Indonesia (2011), Naypidaw Myanmar (2014) Singapore (2015, Kuala Lumpur (2017) and Solo (2022) as host cities of the Games.
It was a night filled with colour and splendour, culture and amazing fireworks as Cambodia displayed its warmth in welcoming over 2,000 athletes, officials and guests to the Kingdom in true spirit of friendship and the Games’ theme of “Sports: Live In Peace.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen declared the 12th ASEAN Para Games open to the thunderous applause of the 60,000 spectators in an evening filled with elaborate display of music, Khmer culture, dance, lighting displays and fireworks.
It was an elaborate and mesmerizing two-hour show which included a sound and lights extravaganza, showcases featuring Khmer’s rich culture, the parade of athletes and nations’ flags, pledging of oaths, speeches, games torch lighting ceremony, and fireworks.
The 12th ASEAN Para Games runs from 3-9 June, with 14 sports and 439 events being contested, including E-sport as a demonstration sport, with the participation of close to 2,000 athletes and officials from 11 nations.
In promoting equality and inclusivity, the ASEAN Para Games enjoys the same privilege of “free Games” as the 32nd SEA Games 2023, where the government waived the expenses of food and accommodation for all foreign athletes, coaches and delegates, provides free tickets for spectators and accorded free live broadcast rights to local and foreign TV networks.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia is proud to host the Games for the first time as it allows para athletes and the disabled community to show their abilities and sporting talents.
“On behalf of the King, the government, the National Paralympics Committee, and myself, I declare the 12th ASEAN Para Games open,” he proclaimed.
His Excellency Hun Many, in his capacity as the 12th ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee representative, said hosting the ASEAN Para Games is a history for the country and the Cambodian people.
“The Games has allowed athletes with a disability to represent their nations and people, and show their unwavering determination and passion for sports, which are no different from their able-bodied friends. To athletes, no matter what outcome it is, remember that we will always support you,” said Hun Many.
The parade of contingents and athletes was among the main highlights which caught the attention of many and received thunderous cheers from spectators, especially for the host contingent Cambodia.
The newly-produced ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF) anthem titled “APSF Forever” were put on play for the first time, before the oath-taking ceremony by athletes and officials pledging fair play in the Games.
APSF President, Maj Gen Osoth Bhavilai hailed Cambodia for taking the challenge to organise the 12th ASEAN Games for the first time, saying that it was a historical moment that will be long-remembered by the Cambodia and Asean community.
“Tonight, history is created! Here, we will witness Cambodia as the host of the Games for the first time. This will be a moment long remembered, and cherished by not only the people of Cambodia but the whole ASEAN population and para community.
“Samdech Techo Prime Minister, ASEAN salutes you for your far-sighted vision and wise leadership in promoting the cause of the para and disabled community, peace, and stability through sports. As the Prime Minister and as President of the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia, we salute your determination in continuously championing the cause and well-being of para-athletes, not only in sports but also in life,” said Maj Gen Bhavilai.
“Sports can only be enjoyed in peaceful times, and Cambodia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, is enjoying the benefits of stability. We congratulate and wish Cambodia all the best, continue to flourish and be successful at becoming a dynamic nation with noble values,” he added.
A series of performances showcasing Khmer roots and cultures were put on show, including the loud vibrating sounds of Khmer drums to mark the glorious day of Khmer which captured the hearts of many at the Stadium.
The parade of the Games torch and lighting of the cauldron was performed by wheelchair basketball athlete An Sinet, marking the official commencement of the seven-day Games.
Earlier in the day, two events were contested with Powerhouse Thailand leading the medal standings with two gold medals after winning the Men’s Team Wheelchair Basketball and Men’s Team (WH) Para Badminton at the Morodok Techo Badminton Hall.
Host Cambodia started on a rousing note, winning the gold in the Wheelchair Basketball Women’s Team 3×3 event at Morodok Techo National Stadium.
Events and competitions kick off in full gear on Sunday (4 June) and end on June 9. A total of 13 sports and one demonstration sport, including athletics, badminton, boccia, blind football, chess, CP Football, goalball, judo, para powerlifting, sitting volleyball, para-swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball. E-sports is contested as demonstration support.
The Games can be viewed live via the organisers’ official website and mobile applications (downloadable via Apple Store and Google Play) at www.cambodia 2023.tv