The upcoming SEA Games will not have any admission fees since Cambodia, the host country, intends to cover all expenses associated with the event independently, with some assistance.
On April 18, the Cambodian government declared that it would cover all the expenses for participating nations in the 32nd SEA Games, including transportation, lodging, and meals. This decision was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen just a few months after announcing that entry to all events would be free for all. Furthermore, broadcasting rights for the events would also be free. Cambodia is the first host in SEA Games history to bear all expenses for participating countries, despite having one of the lowest GDPs in Southeast Asia, ranking above only Laos, Timor Leste, and Brunei.
During a speech in Phnom Penh on Monday, Hun Sen cited by Khmer Times said, “We do this so that other countries can understand the sincerity of Khmer people.”
According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, these measures might raise the total cost of hosting the SEA Games 32 to $200 million. The construction cost of the new Morodok Techo National Sports Complex in Phnom Penh will make up a significant portion of the expense, totaling $160 million.
Based on the 2021 World Bank report, Cambodia's GDP stands at $27 billion. Therefore, their budget for hosting the SEA Games 32 amounts to 0.74% of that figure. This percentage is 53 times higher than Vietnam's expenditure of $51 million to host the SEA Games 31 last year, which represented 0.014% of their GDP.
Cambodia is willing to allocate significant resources to host the SEA Games 32 because they aim to establish a proper national sports complex. In June 2018, the General Secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, Vath Chamroeun, highlighted the significance of the new Morodok Techo National Sports Complex, stating that it would not only enhance sports development in Cambodia but also promote international tourism.
Another reason for the substantial investment is Cambodia's strong partnership with China in their SEA Games undertaking. In a statement made earlier this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasized that they did not require money from ticket sales or any advertising in Cambodia, but rather the world should be aware of Cambodia's capabilities.
The majority of Southeast Asian citizens have expressed support for his decision.
One Facebook user, Evrin from Indonesia, expressed admiration for Cambodia's decision to host the SEA Games, saying that it was a commendable move to elevate the competition. Ming Sinh from Cambodia noted that despite criticism, they were putting in their best efforts to ensure a successful event and showcase the generosity of Cambodians. Luong Tan from Vietnam remarked that Cambodia's ability to host the SEA Games demonstrated its economic potential and foresight, which would attract international investment and tourists to Cambodia in the future.
Although some individuals have raised concerns about the potential negative economic impact of hosting the SEA Games, Hun Sen's decision was well received by the participating countries, and most experts believe that the event will benefit from reaching a broader audience across the region.