London Olympic organisers apologised after a mix-up over North Korea’s flag prompted its women’s football team to walk off the pitch in an embarrassing start to the Games.
The North Korean squad were pictured next to the national flag of South Korea - with whom the North are officially still at war - at their opening match against Colombia. The North Koreans walked off but were persuaded to return an hour later, when the teams were re-announced with each player’s face shown next to the correct flag.
“We made a mistake, it is as simple as that,” said Paul Deighton, the chief executive of Games organisers. “We have apologised. It was simple human error, that is why we have apologised. I can assure you that it is not going to happen again.”
North Korea went on to win the match 2-0 but the team’s coach Sin Ui-Gun said that the win would not compensate for the mix-up.
“Nothing can compensate this,” said Ui-Gun. “It is a different matter. We hope there is no repeat in the next matches.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge blamed human error for the blunder calling it an ‘unfortunate incident.
“It was a most unfortunate incident yesterday,” said Rogge. “I can assure you the organising committee will take corrective action and there will be no repeat. There is no political connotation just a simple human mistake.”
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. North Korean officials have blocked South Korean media from covering their athletes’ training sessions.
Brazil, US register wins
In other women’s football matches, Brazil beat Cameroon 5-0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff while the US tackled France successfully with a 4-2 win.
Japan saw off a determined Canadian side 2-1 at the City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry and in the last match of the day Sweden beat South Africa 4-1 to get off the mark.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.