Olympic Stadium management is seeking permission to reopen its grounds to the public, with Phnom Penh residents saying there are few other options for exercising and that in the crowded parks around the Independence Monument people are “almost stepping on each other.”

The stadium’s grounds — which contain several public sporting facilities — have been closed since early April amid the coronavirus outbreak. A notice on its gates from March 15 advised social distancing, while another dated April 7 announced its temporary closure. Some areas are being used as a car park.

Hun Samuth, director of Olympic Stadium’s management department, told Newsroom that he was seeking permission to reopen from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

“I’ve requested to the excellencies at the ministry and I’m waiting for a reply, but I have not yet seen any reply yet,” Samuth said.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha, however, said he did not yet know when the ministry would allow the stadium to reopen to the public. He noted that the ministry had announced in May that high-level athletes would be allowed to conduct trainings there.

Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee, said such trainings had begun this month.

Chamroeun said it would be an unnecessary risk to open the grounds to the wider public.

“People who used to exercise can exercise at home,” he said. “People must know how to live amid Covid following the instructions of the government.”

However, Nouv Vanna, a Daun Penh district resident, said he likes to exercise at Olympic Stadium and that the alternatives seem riskier.

“I exercise in Independence Park, and sometimes there’s little space. Walking is like almost stepping on each other,” Vanna said.

Other places where people are gathering to eat and drink were also much more crowded than Olympic Stadium would be if reopened, he said. It would be easy to maintain 5-10 meters between people at the stadium’s spacious facilities, and there was plenty of fresh air, he said.

“At first it was just prevention for a short time, but when they close it till now, I don’t support it,” Vanna said.

“Exercise releases stress and helps to sleep well,” he added. “I request that the ministries reopen the stadium so people can go exercise.”

Almost 200 cases of coronavirus have been detected in Cambodia as of Tuesday, and schools are now scheduled to gradually reopen beginning next month.

Mean Reaksmey, a resident near the stadium, said her house was too small to get good exercise, and city’s sidewalks were too treacherous — either without space to walk or with motorbikes and cars on them.

She said she wants Olympic Stadium to reopen so she and her family and can exercise in the evenings and weekends. “I wish they will open soon for releasing some stress and for people to have good place to exercise.”