Cambodia Hosts First Major Sporting Event in 55 Years

The opening ceremony for the 2023 SEA Games have taken place in Phnom Penh meaning Cambodia is hosting its first major sporting event in 65 years. Amazingly though very few people even know this.

To read about the 2023 SEA Games schedule click here

What was GANEFO

Officially the Games of the New Emerging Forces it was initially created and extolled by the then leftist Indonesia and was in part a forerunner of the Non-Aligned Movement.

To read about the Non-Aligned Movement click here.

The initial games were held in 1965 in Indonesia in 1963 and had an impressive 2700 athletes from 51 states, mostly socialist, or at least newly independent. This gave I the nickname the “Olympics of the left”.

Alas the actual Olympics did not like this too much and tried to curtail it, despite it rightfully for example having the Peoples Republic China taking their rightful place.

The 1966 GANEFO Games in Cambodia

By the 1966 event the United Arab Republic was supposed to be the host, but dropped out as their country no-longer existed. King Sihanouk duly jumped in as despite being a King, he was fairly friendly with the Socialist Bloc.

To read about Buddhist Socialism click here.

By these games it was decided that they would be Asian based teams only, but still 17 nations took part sending an impressive 2,00 athletes, meaning from a participating nations point of view it was bigger than the current 32nd SEA Games.

Ironically it also fully made use of the National Olympic Stadium and complex, which is also centre stage at these games.

Cambodia finished an impressive 3rd with 62 medals a feat it would be happy with at these games.

To read about the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh click here

The End of GANEFO

Sadly games based around politics can only last so long and with the next edition supposed to be held in Cultural Revolution ravaged Peoples Republic of China, only to be moved ti Pyongyang and unexplainably canceled the games were no more.

Sadly for North Korea it would then have to witness the Seoul Olympics before settling for the 1989 World Festival of Youth and Students.

You can read about that festival here.

The game though were sadly over, with the Olympics all, but taking its place. They did though leave at least leave a legacy and one which is being made the most of today in 2023 in Cambodia.

You can read about GANEFO in detail here

Why has it taken Cambodia 54 years to host a tournament?

Sadly shortly after the games the CIA overthrew Sihanouk, which would lead to the Khmer Rouge, who through their genocide did not put much emphasis on sport.

This was followed by the unrecognized Peoples Republic of Kampuchea and finally some form pf peace in 1993. Since then the country has gone through defeating the Khmer Rouge in 1998, a brief civil war and finally stability under the Cambodian Peoples Party.

To read about the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea click here

Cambodia though is now back where it belongs, stable, happy and a driving force for good in South-East Asia, something 2023 Cambodia merely amplifies.