We Love Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium

The National Sports Complex designed to Olympic standards, was directly
commissioned by then Head of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk himself.
Construction began on May 25, 1962 and was completed in some 18 months.
It was inaugurated on November 12, 1964 with a crowd of one hundred
thousand people. The complex was initially designed for the Southeast Asian
Games of 1964. Instead Cambodia hosted the international GANEFO* Games
in 1966 and used the stadium to receive international dignitaries visiting
Cambodia during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era (1953/1970).

The complex comprises of a 60,000 seat stadium with sports ground and
athletic tracks; an external grandstand for 8000 official spectators, an indoor
sports hall for 8,000; restaurants, changing rooms and reception area, 24
outdoor tennis, volley-ball and basketball courts, an Olympic standard
swimming and diving-pool with seating for 8,000 and a podium for medal
winners and the Olympic flame.

500,000m3 earth was excavated with manpower and ox carts that was
heaped up to create the elliptic stadium. The water tanks created by these
excavations were necessary to ensure drainage not only of the sports facilities
but also for the whole of this low-lying district of Phnom Penh.

The sports complex was linked to housing for 2,000 athletes built on the Bassac
riverfront (today Phnom Penh Centre) and to the Water Sport Complex / Yacht
Club (turned into the Phnom Penh Casino in 1969, later totally destroyed).
The Sports Complex was lauded in the international architectural press
of the 1960s and inaugurated to great acclaim in 1964 as a technical feat
and a work of great beauty. It was designed by Cambodian architect Vann
Molyvann, assisted by UN expert engineer Vladimir Bodiansky, UN expert
urbanist Gérald Hanning, Cambodian architects Mean Kimly, Um Samouth
and French architects Claude Duchemin and Jean-Claude Morin, who did all
the working drawings and Civil Engineer Wladimir Kandouaroff, responsible
for the gigantic earthworks.

* GANEFO = Games of the New Emerging Forces

During the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955-1970) Prince Norodom
Sihanouk enacted a development policy encompassing the whole kingdom
with the construction of new towns, infrastructure and the highest standard
of architecture. Vann Molyvann was the foremost of a generation of architects
who contributed to the unique style of architecture that emerged during
this era and that has been coined NEW KHMER ARCHITECTURE.

Vann Molyvann was born in 1926 in Ream, Kampot province. He trained at
the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France and returned
in 1956 to Cambodia as the first fully qualified Cambodian architect and was
appointed Head of Public Works and State Architect by Sihanouk. In 13 years
he designed and built over hundreds works, including such famous landmarks
as the Chaktomouk Conference Hall, the Council of Ministers, the Teachers
Training College, the National Theatre Preah Suramarit, and the Exhibition
Hall. In addition to his appointment as Minister of Education and founding
Rector of the University of Fine Arts, he worked as a town planner and was
also engaged in many social housing experiments. Furthermore he designed
some of Cambodia’s embassies and exhibitions abroad. He left Cambodia in
1971 shortly after Lon Nol took power and worked until 1993 for the United
Nations Centre for Human Settlements throughout the world. In 1993 he
returned to Cambodia where, as President of the Council of Ministers, he
obtained the classification of Angkor as a UNESCO World Heritage site and
founded APSARA (Authority for the Protection Safeguard and Renovation of

Olympic Stadium Phnom Penh
Nerd Night Presentation

Historic Images + Photos Source:
Grant Ross, Helen and Darryl Leon Collins. Building Cambodia: ‘New Khmer
Architecture’ 1953-1970 Bangkok: The Key Publisher, 2006.

Contemporary Photos Source:
Shelby Elizabeth Doyle

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