London Games organizers apologize after Korean flag blunder
London, England, United Kingdom (4E Sports) – It was an embarrassment which the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee (LOCOG) could have done without.
Knowing the sensitive nature of the relations between North and South Korea, the LOCOG could have been more careful, but they shot themselves in the foot by erroneously displaying the South Korean flag just before the North Korean women were scheduled to begin their soccer match against Colombia.
The North Koreans staged a walkout and the match could only start after a delay of more than an hour in the Scottish city of Glasgow. It was small consolation for North Korea who won 2-0.
Though the organizers tendered an apology on Thursday, the damage had already been done and the issue had snowballed into a major diplomatic row. Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the Games organisers, was quoted as saying on BBC radio that,
“We made a mistake, it is as simple as that…we have apologized and we are taking steps to make sure that absolutely can’t happen again…It was simple human error, that is why we have apologized. I can assure you that it is not going to happen again.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Jacques Rogge, tried to play down the controversy, saying it was a human error, though he added that it was an unfortunate incident.
Relations between the democratic South and the communist North Korea have deteriorated in the recent past as the reclusive North continues to push forward its nuclear program. Reports suggest that the South Korean media has been barred from covering North Korea’s athletes’ training sessions.
Even British Prime Minister, David Cameron, could not keep himself aloof from the controversy, commenting on Thursday that the mix-up was “An honest mistake, honestly made”, before adding that the LOGOC had tendered an apology and that such an incident won’t happen again. “We shouldn’t inflate this episode. It was unfortunate, it shouldn’t have happened, and I think we can leave it at that,” he told the media.
There were gaffes galore on the day athletes and officials were putting in place their ceremonial attires for the gala opening, with the Ukrainian contingent officials asking the LOGOC to set right biographies of some athletes on the Games’ website, which places their Ukrainian birthplaces in Russia. The players in question were born in the erstwhile Soviet Union territory, which is now Ukraine.