Cambodia’s audacious sports stadium moves into Chinese hands

Much excitement and anticipation have surrounded the highly touted Morodok Techo National Sports Complex – the development which helped Cambodia secure the rights to host the 32nd SEA Games in 2023 – since plans were first unveiled in 2012, and now construction has advanced to the next phase under the guard of the Chinese.

The largely Chinese-backed stadium, which is tipped to accommodate up to 100,000 people, is being constructed on an 85-hectare piece of land in Prek Tasek Sangkat in the Russei Keo District, and forms part of the Samdech Techo satellite city being developed by the L.Y.P Group.

Construction of the new sporting facility is moving apace as the stadium’s second phase of its three-stage development is currently in full swing. The Chinese government is footing the bill for the project’s second phase after Cambodia’s coffers stumped up the funds for the first phase of development.

Chea Bora, secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, said the ministry had only participated in the first phase of the construction, after which, the project was transferred to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC). Up until now, the project is being monitored by the Chinese government, along with the L.Y.P Group.

“However, most of the site is under the control of the Chinese,” he said. “They are the ones designing the blueprint for the construction.”

Bora denied rumours that the stadium’s funding pool is tied up with the Chinese embassy in Cambodia, insisting that the funds had come directly from China.

“This is all the work of the Chinese, China is helping us with this project entirely [with no] renting or borrowing; we are only the recipients,” he added.

Meanwhile, Vat Chamreoun, secretary general of the NOCC, said he was cognizant of the donor’s vision for the stadium project.

“[The Chinese] contributed $100 million in constructing the Morodok Techo National Sports Complex,” he said.

“This is a deep and meaningful bond. It signifies brotherhood and joy. The Chinese always give funds to countries with whom they have built a good friendship with. When one of those countries has a solid plan in organizing major sport events, the Chinese will step in and give a helping hand in building the infrastructure to serve the sport sector,” he added.

While $38 million of the national budget was used in the first phase of construction that started in 2013, according to Chamreoun, after which China took the initiative to back the rest of the development, he said it is important that Cambodia continues to place emphasis on advancing its sporting facilities.

“In terms of economy and society, investing in sporting projects results in a lot benefits; including comfort for the people, mental and spiritual education, and nationalism. It is a long-term investment,” he said.

In addition to China’s sporting foray in Cambodia, Chamreoun said the Chinese government had also helped to construct stadiums in neighbouring Laos and Myanmar when the countries were preparing to host the SEA Games in 2009 and 2013 respectively.

But Chamreoun said Cambodia was a particularly special case when it comes to Chinese investment.

“It’s only in Cambodia that the Chinese government decided to contribute $100 million because Cambodia proposed a stadium project that will be modern and chic, with great architectural designs and commercial buildings to sustain the sports sector within the Morodok Techo stadium,” he said.

“This is a new vision to sustain the sports sector in the future.”

Referring to the master plan for the landmark building, Chamreoun confirmed that the complex’s first phase will be operational by the end of 2016.

The first completed phase of construction will see the complex equipped with a swimming pool, an indoor stadium, sports dormitories for 300 national players, a football and volleyball field for warm-ups, and a three-type tennis court.

According to Chamreoun, the swimming pool, which meets international standards, is set to be the jewel in the stadium’s crown.

“[The swimming centre] is equipped with a warm up pool, a swimming competition pool, and a diving pool. This centre alone can hold 3,000 spectators,” he said, while the indoor stadium will be used for volleyball, basketball, football, and tennis – with a capacity to hold up to 6,000 spectators. The Morodok Techo National Sports Complex is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

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