Cambodian Olympians quietly depart for Beijing

Other News Materials 6 August 2008 17:24 (UTC +04:00)

Cambodia's handful of Olympians departed for Beijing Wednesday with no fanfare, few hopes, but lots of Olympic spirit and hopes of seeing some of the world for the first time, dpa reported.

Cambodia is fielding two swimmers, a sprinter and a marathon runner, none of whom claim hopes of medals, but all of whom are proud to represent Cambodia, which is duly proud of them.

It has been a mixed journey for the four athletes.

For instance marathon runner Hem Bunting, 23, who changed from football to running only five years ago because his mother thought football was too dangerous, nearly boycotted the games last month when he found himself too broke to buy shoes.

National Olympic Committee President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon dipped into his own pocket to keep Bunting on track.

At least one Cambodian swimmer who dropped out before she could be ranked gave the reason for her retirement as the poor quality of the water in the nation's threadbare Olympic Stadium swimming pool in the capital, which her mother said gave her hives.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng welcomed the team off from Phnom Penh International Airport Wednesday, wishing them luck, but otherwise, their subdued departure went almost unnoticed.

"What Olympic team?" one airport ticketing official said Wednesday. "Did they leave? I didn't notice."