London 2012 organisers apologise to the North Korean Olympic team following an embarrassing mix-up that saw the flag of a rival nation mistakenly displayed at the first sporting event of the Games.

The players walked off following the mix up (pic: James Crossan)

The North Korean women's football team staged a protest ahead of their opening match with Columbia after the South Korean flag was wrongly shown on a big screen before kick-off.

As a consequence, the players walked off the pitch and refused to start yesterday's match at Hampden Park in Scotland at the scheduled 7.45pm start time.

They were persuaded to return to the field about an hour later when the sides were announced again, with each player's face displayed next to the North Korean flag.

Following the blunder in Scotland, Games organisers Locog issued a statement apologising for the confusion.

It said: "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.

"Clearly this 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."

'Genuine mistake'

London 2012 spokesman Andy Mitchell said: "The South Korean flag was shown in the video package on the screen before the kick-off and the North Koreans were naturally very upset about that.

"A genuine mistake was made for which we apologise."

North Korea will face South Korea in the first round of the men's Olympic table tennis team event after the pair were drawn against each other on Wednesday.

South Korea and North Korea exist as neighbours but have a far from harmonious relationship. The countries were formally established as separate entities in 1948, and the Korean War began in 1950.

Only two years ago, North Korean artillery shells killed four people, two from the military and two civilians, on Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea.

More on this story