BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
Cambodia has organized the 13th International Marathon, scheduled for December 7. The event is to be held in Siem Reap province, site of the Angkor Wat temple complex and one of the richest sites of cultural interest in the world, according to Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism and the Chairman of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC).
The Minister revealed that about 2,200 athletes including over 800 participants from 31 other countries have signed up to take part in the International Marathon. He said that last year about 2,000 athletes had competed in the Siem Reap race.
“This is the centerpiece sporting event for the whole year and this year marks the 13th occasion that the Marathon has been run.” said the Minister. “The marathon race will not only bring glory to the winner, but it will also promote tourism in the region.”
Meas Sarin, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS), and Secretary General of the NOCC, said that the marathon will also be an opportunity for participants to raise sponsorship to help improve the conditions of landmine victims in Cambodia.
The competition also aims to promote the half marathon sporting discipline and encourage the introduction of international standards to help the nation’s runners, Sarin said. He too mentioned the stimulus the competition would provide to the tourist sector as the runner’s route takes them through the heart of Cambodia’s temple sites.
The Secretary General said that the race has been organized by MoEYS with input from the Ministry of Tourism, and the NOCC. Further assistance was provided by provincial Athletics Authorities and the Apsara Authority.
Chhoun Leng, Deputy Director of Student Physical Education and Sports with MoEYS, said that the race will take place around the extensive Angkor Wat temple complex.
There will be over 1,500 Cambodian marathon runners from cities and provinces across the country and they will all be participating in the 13th International Marathon on a volunteer basis, according to Chhoun Leng.
He continued that the marathon will be divided into two categories; the first category is for professional half-marathon runners. They will be running for a distance of 21 kilometers around Angkor Wat. He added that the second category is for the amateur runner or volunteers. Here, male runners will be asked to clock up 10 kilometers with their female counterparts slogging it out for an additional 5 kilometers.
He pointed out that there will be the usual gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third placed runners, with additional prizes all provided by the Heart of Gold from Japan.
The Minister Thong Khon said that beside the international marathon race, his ministry has also planned to host the Asia Golf Tour which will take place in Siem Reap from 11th to 14th December. He said according to the ministry plan, at least 200 golf players from over 30 countries will be attending the Asia Golf Tour in Siem Reap province.
He emphasized that the main purpose of the Asia Golf Tour events was also to promote the tourism industry in Cambodia amid the world economic crisis and the current border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.
“We hope that through these sports events, we may help Cambodia counter the negative effects posed by the financial recession and the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over the kingdom's tourism industry,” he told the Cambodia Weekly.
He said that tourism is one of the key industries of the Kingdom of Cambodia. However, he also said that due to the world economic crisis, the ministry has lowered it expectations for tourist arrivals for 2008. New predictions read 2.1 million, down from the original 2.7 million.