North Koreans angered by Olympic flag blunder
GLASGOW — North Korea’s women’s football team refused to take the field for more than an hour Wednesday in protest at an embarrassing mix-up of their national flag on day one of the London Olympics.
The team were incensed after Hampden Park’s giant screen showed images of North Korean players next to the South Korean flag before their opening match with Colombia.
The game missed its 7:45 pm (1845 GMT) start after North Korea failed to appear. After it finally kicked off at 8:50 pm, North Korea won 2-0 with a goal in each half.
“Yes, we were angry because our players were introduced as if they are from South Korea, something that may affect us very greatly as you might know,” said North Korea coach Sin Ui-Gun.
“Winning the game cannot compensate this. It is a different matter. We hope there is no repeat in the next matches,” he added.
Sin said North Korea would have abandoned the game if the problem was not resolved, and said he had even wondered if the wrong flag had not been used on purpose.
“If this matter was not solved, we thought going on was nonsense,” he said.
Olympics organisers and FIFA apologised over the blunder, which came among a series of other howlers on the first day of competition of London 2012.
“Today ahead of the women’s football match at Hampden Park, the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen video package instead of the North Korean flag,” said a statement from the London organising committee.
“Clearly that is a mistake, we will apologise to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Team GB sent out an email referring to the Great Britain women’s football team as “England”.
And organisers offered a refund to diving fans whose view will be partially obscured due to a defect in Olympic Park’s purpose-built, wave-shaped Aquatics Centre.
The North Korean error recalls a notorious incident in March, when organisers of a shooting competition in Kuwait played a spoof anthem from comedy film “Borat” instead of the Kazakh national verse.
In May, South Africa’s hockey team were treated to a rendition of the country’s apartheid-era anthem at their London Cup match against Britain.
Relations between the two Koreas, still officially at war and sharing the world’s most heavily guarded border, have plunged in recent months over the communist North’s nuclear programme.
The countries did not hold talks on reprising 2004’s joint march at the Athens Olympics opening ceremony.
In Britain, North Korean officials have blocked South Korean media from covering their athletes’ training sessions, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.
However, South Korea’s weightlifters politely rearranged a training session this week after the North Korean team arrived at the same venue at the same time, in a scheduling mistake.