Flag blunder delays North Korea-Colombia women's football tie

London’s Olympics got off to an embarrassing start on Wednesday when North Korea’s women footballers refused to play after a mix-up over their national flag, in one of a series of blunders.

Hosts Great Britain had kicked off the sports festival, years in the making and costing billions of dollars, with a 1-0 win over New Zealand as women’s soccer got under way two days before the opening the ceremony.

A South Korean flag is displayed next to the picture of a North Korean player on the big screen at Glasgow’s Hampden Park yesterday

The United States beat France 4-2 and Japan overcame Canada 2-1. But North Korea’s opener against Colombia was held up after their players were pictured next to South Korea’s flag on the big screen at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

The North Koreans were finally persuaded to take the field and the match, scheduled for 7:45 pm (1845 GMT), began at 8:50 pm. Red-faced organisers were quick to apologise for the howler.

“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 London 2012 organisers.

“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.”

The incident — involving two countries still officially at war — ensured a nightmare debut for the 19-day Games, where the hosts’ capabilities are on show as thousands of athletes compete for 302 gold medals until August 12.

“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.

North Korea won 2-0 with a goal in each half. “Winning the game cannot compensate this. It is a different matter,” he added. — 

It was a simple human mistake, says Rogge
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge on Thursday blamed human error for the flag blunder which drew a protest from North Korea in the women’s football tournament.

Responding to a question from North Korean IOC member Chang Ung at the IOC session, Rogge said the incident at Wednesday night’s game in Glasgow was simply an “unfortunate incident.”

North Korea refused to take the field for more than an hour 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.

“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.”

Other goof ups...
>> Is it England or Great Britain?
Team GB sent out a press release to toast Great Britain’s 1-0 win over New Zealand in the opening game of the women’s football tournament in Cardiff.

The home team is supposed to represent England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But in the email subject matter were the words: ‘England women on their way’.

Olympics organisers suffered another embarrassing nationality blunder yesterday when Welsh international footballer Joe Allen was described as “English”. The 22-year-old Swansea City midfielder was pictured in the official Team GB programme with his nationality listed as English despite being born in Camarthen in Wales.

>> Hitting the roof over obscured view
Organisers offered refunds to almost 5,000 people after admitting some spectators’ view of the 10-metre diving platform event at the Aquatics Centre is partially obscured. It was confirmed that 600 spectators high up in the stands at the 17,500-seater venue would have their view partially obscured at each session. Given there are eight sessions over the men's and women's individual and synchro, it would mean refunds could be issued if people chose to return their tickets, which are all in the £30-50 range ($46-$77). 

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