SEA spirit helps Cambodia to succeed in debut hosting, says Timor Leste NOC

Xanana Gusmao (second from left) and Laurentino Guterres (right) at the opening ceremony.
Xanana Gusmao (second from left) and Laurentino Guterres (right) at the opening ceremony.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 14, 2023: When Laurentino Guterres, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Timor Leste, is asked for his best memory of the Cambodia SEA Games, he has no doubt.

“The opening ceremony,” he replies without hesitation.

“This is the first time for Cambodia to host the SEA Games but the opening ceremony was very spectacular.”

It was extra special for the Timor Leste delegation, as national hero Xanana Gusmao attended the opening ceremony for the first time and sat in the VVIP box to greet the parade of athletes.

Xanana Gusmao was the first President of the independent republic from 2002 to 2007 and then Prime Minister of Timor Leste from 2007 to 2015.

“It is the first time for Timor Leste that our hero, Mr Xanana Gusmao, was taking part during the opening ceremony. He was a special guest of Cambodia,” said Laurentino. “It is very inspiring for Timor Leste.”

Timor Leste sent a delegation of 105 to the 32nd SEA Games, including 71 athletes, and, so far, have won eight bronze medals.

They could not repeat their two silver medals from athletics at the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi last May, and Laurentino puts this down to several factors back home.

“It’s because of the training facilities in Timor Leste. We do not have human resources, no qualified coaches; the athletes just train with whatever they have,” he said.

“Also, the Government is still not focusing on sports development so there are very limited resources - both financial and also human resources - to provide to the national federations, to provide to the National Olympic Committee, the sports confederations, so we face challenges. 

“But I think we have been trying our best to perform based on our situation.”

Although Laurentino acknowledges that every host country faces challenges and difficulties, especially with a first-time host like Cambodia, he feels that the spirit of the southeast Asian nations has made the 32nd SEA Games a big success.

“Our athletes have enjoyed it. I think Cambodia and Timor Leste we have some similar situations but we are trying to show to the public that they have been trying their best to serve us. 

“We are here to support our host country, to succeed in their mission to serve us, because in southeast Asia we are one family to support each other.

“I think this is the first time also for countries like Timor Leste to have financial support, that everything was provided free for officials and athletes. So, it’s been great for Timor Leste.”