SIEM REAP, Cambodia, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The torch relay for the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia began on Tuesday, with 45 days to go until the start of the biennial regional multi-sport event.
Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, accompanied by Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, presided over the torch-lighting ceremony held at the famed Angkor Wat temple in northwest Siem Reap province.
The torch was then carried, circling Angkor Wat, and on March 22, it will leave Cambodia to tour other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
The torch will return to Cambodia on April 27.
Speaking at the ceremony, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh, who is also chairman of the Cambodia SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC), said the upcoming SEA Games will be a historic event, as the kingdom has waited for it for 64 years.
"This regional sports event will raise Cambodia's reputation in the international arena, as it will also be a great opportunity to show our peace, culture, civilization, tourism, and socioeconomic development to the world," he said.
Cambodia will host the 32nd SEA Games from May 5 to 17. The Morodok Techo National Stadium in the capital's northern suburb will be the centerpiece venue for official opening and closing ceremonies, and tournaments.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon, president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, said a total of 11,453 athletes and delegates from Southeast Asian countries are expected to participate in the Games.
"This is a sign of solidarity, friendship, and good cooperation in the great family of the Olympic movement in the region," he said.
According to CAMSOC, the Games will see athletes competing in 37 sports with more than 600 disciplines. ■