By Philip Goh
Tonight has to be the proudest moment to be a Cambodian as the curtains fell on the 32nd SEA Games. The Kingdom of Wonder has showcased exceptional competence in organising the most prestigious multi-sport event of the region despite being first-time hosts, winning resounding praise and appreciation from all.
The 60,000-seater stadium hosted a glittering Closing Ceremony. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
With the Chinese-built Morodok Techo National Stadium lit up like a glittering jewel under a cloudless Phnom Penh night, thousands of participants from the 11 ASEAN nations gathered to celebrate the closing of the regional biennial event.
From the founding members Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, to its newest member Timor Leste, all have gathered in Cambodia to represent their country with pride and were treated to two hours of memorable highlights.
A giant inflatable Borey, one of the two rabbit mascots of the Games, makes a popular appearance. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
The night opened with the singing of the Cambodian national anthem, followed by a cultural song and dance which also featured the appearance of the Games mascots, Borey and Romdouon - the male and female rabbits that have become sought-after keepsakes.
Kun Bokator to the fore. The ancient martials arts form takes centrestage. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
The skies then came alive with fireworks, setting the stage for a captivating display of the Khmer martial arts form of Kun Bokator that delighted the audience. Soon after, the athletes marched into the stadium proudly under their respective national flags, with Assistant Chef de Mission Lim Tong Hai leading Team Singapore.
Team Singapore led by Assistant Chef de Mission Lim Tong Hai (far right in white jacket) and Chef de Mission Dr. Hing Siong Chin (middle of the photo in white jacket). Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
True to the Games slogan of "Sports: Live in Peace" came the well-received news of the reconciliation of football officials from Thailand and Indonesia, who were involved in a scuffle the previous evening during the men's football final. Both teams marched into the stadium with pride, having given their all on the field though with differing outcomes.
The parade of volunteers received the loudest applause, a true testament to the immense appreciation for the efforts of these dedicated individuals who have gone out of their way to make the visiting nations feel welcome during their stay in Cambodia.
Cambodian Minister of Tourism and Chairman of Cambodia’s National Olympic Council, Thong Khon, gave a closing address. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
Bou Samnang, the Cambodian long distance runner who became a viral sensation following her lonely run through the storm, made a much-anticipated and welcome appearance, lapping up the appreciation for her show of sportsmanship. The 20-year-old is also the recipient of a special US$10,000 gift from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who was impressed by her perseverance while wearing national colours.
Quah Ting Wen receives one of two awards accorded to the best athletes of the Games. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
Then came a proud moment for Singapore as swimmer Quah Ting Wen was presented with one of the two awards for Best Athletes of the 32nd SEA Games.
Said Ting Wen of the award: “I am extremely honoured and proud to receive this award. I am thankful for the opportunity to have done well for Singapore and my sport.
“My brother received the award in 2019 and my sister was the most bemedalled athlete at the Hanoi SEA Games last year, so it feels like a nice way to close the circle.”
Quah TIng Wen is pleased to have closed the circle in this defining SEA Games of her swimming career. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
The SEA Games flag was then handed over to 2025 hosts Thailand, who presented a cultural display celebrating the cities of Bangkok, Chonburi and Songkhla which will host the next edition of these biennial Games.
Cambodia passes on the host baton to Thailand. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
Singapore will remember these Games for the achievement of its 554-strong contingent which took part in 30 sports and came away with 51 Gold, 43 Silver and 64 Bronze medals. The sizable haul placed Singapore sixth in the medal standings, with many young athletes gaining the experience that will serve them well in the upcoming editions of the Games.
Upcoming hosts Thailand put on a splendid cultural display. Photo: SNOC/Eng Chin An
As the Cambodian Prime Minister drew the Closing Ceremony to a close, many will leave Cambodia with fond memories of a fantastic two-week long sporting festival that is among the best-organised Games that Singapore has participated in.
It was highly appropriate then for fireworks to light up the sky for a second time above the Morodok Techo National Stadium, worthy of the “Cambodian Pride” emblazoned across the arena.
The 32nd SEA Games are held in Cambodia from 5 to 17 May 2023. For the latest Team Singapore coverage and news, follow Team Singapore on their social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) or visit the official Team Singapore website.