Flag gaffe mars Olympic opening

The London Olympics got off to an embarrassing start – in Glasgow. The North Korean women’s football team walked off in protest when organisers displayed the South Korean flag next to the players’ names.

The match against Colombia at Hampden Park was delayed for an hour, and a full-scale diplomatic incident seemed unavoidable. Relations between North and South Korea are at a low ebb and the North Koreans regarded the error as a grievous insult. When the game was eventually started North Korea won 2-0, but the flag farce was not forgotten.

North Korea’s coach Ui Gun-sin said: "The national flag difference is a big problem. Our team was not going to participate unless the problem was solved properly. We were angry because our players were shown as if they were from South Korea which affects us very greatly."

The Olympics authorities were left severely embarrassed on the first day of competition. "The South Korean flag was shown on a big screen instead of the flag of North Korea," the organising committee statement read. "Clearly that is a mistake. We will apologise to the team and the national Olympic committee and steps will be taken to ensure no repeat."

The extreme embarrassment was compounded when only about 1000 spectators remained to watch the match. There had been little interest from Scots, despite many tickets being given away for free. The Daily Record quoted one fan, Hamish Burns: "You can understand the Koreans being upset. It’s like putting up an England flag at a Scotland game, except we don’t point missiles at each other."

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