25 Jul 2012

North Korean flag fiasco delays Olympic game

An Olympic women’s football game is delayed after officials display the South Korean flag, instead of the North Korean flag, before kick-off.

North Korea was due to play against Colombia in Glasgow when the South Korean flag was displayed on a giant monitor at the Hampden stadium.

After the mistake, the North Korean team reportedly refused to leave their dressing room in protest. Officials at the stadium had to negotiate with the athletes, asking them to come on to the pitch, and offering to announce the teams again – with the correct flag display.

The match had been due to begin at 7.45pm, but it was delayed by around an hour and finally kicked-off at around 8.50pm.

Olympic organisers apologised to North Korea for the mix-up. “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. Clearly that is a mistake. We will apologize to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Asia News reports that country’s new leader Kim Jong-un said he would broadcast the country’s football matches live in contrast to his father, who usually had the broadcast delayed so as to decide whether the sporting event could be shown. But it is unknown whether his pledge went ahead for tonight’s game.

Sin Ui-gun, head coach of the North Korean women’s football team, has previously said that his Olympic aim was to make Kim Jong-un happy.

Earlier on Wednesday, the first photos of the Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju emerged. This is the first time state media confirmed the Dear Leader was married, and the public photographs show the couple are well practiced in the Korean art of ceremonial visits.

Past sporting mix-ups have not been limited to the raising of the wrong flag. Athletes from Kazakhstan were outraged when, on ascending the podium in Kuwait following the 75th Arab Shooting Championship earlier this year, the organisers played the spoof anthem from the Sacha Baron Cohen film Borat, rather than their own national anthem. The medal ceremony was subsequently re-run.

Photos: @jamescrossan