Construction on the National Sports Complex started in 1963 and was completed in 1964. Designer Vann Molyvann made use of massive earthworks to create the stadium, digging up 500,000 cubic meters of earth to shape the grounds.
The stadium might have been built to host the 1963 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, but the games were cancelled due to political problems in Cambodia. There was also the short-lived GANEFO games, and they were held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 25th~December 6th, 1966 and were named
‘First Asian GANEFO’. The stadium did play host to appearances by visiting dignitaries and state occasions, and was the home of Cambodia’s national athletics teams.
The stadium played a small part in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Unexpectedly, North Korea faced Australia in a qualifier. Because North Korea lacked dipomatic relations with most countries, finding a suitable venue for the match proved difficult, until Head of State Norodom Sihanouk, an ally of Kim Il-sung, said the matches could be held in Phnom Penh. The matches attracted 40,000 fans, with Sihounouk decreeing half would cheer for Australia, while the other half cheered the Koreans. The matches were held on 21 November 1965 and on 24 November 1965 with North Korea winning both (6–1 and 3–1). Because South Korea and all African teams had withdrawn in protests against FIFA, North Korea were thus directly qualified to the final tournament, where they reached the quarter-final.
Among the facilities are Olympic-size pools for swimming and diving and an indoor volley-ball court with a capacity of up to 8,000, now known as the Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena.
During the Khmer Rouge era, the stadium was used as the site of executions by the Khmer Rouge of officials in the administration of Lon Nol.