Olympic organizers apologize after North Korea gaffe | News | DW | 26.07.2012
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Olympic organizers apologize after North Korea gaffe

In an embarrassing start to the London Olympics, organizers have been forced to issue an apology to North Korea's women's soccer team. A South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed ahead of their game against Colombia.

The London Olympic opening ceremony may still be a day away, but the organizers of the games are already reeling from a major diplomatic gaffe.

North Korea's women's soccer team stormed off the pitch ahead of their first Group G match against Colombia on Wednesday after the South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed beside the images of the players.

The London 2012 organizers promptly responded by issuing an apology.

"Clearly that was 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 organizers said in a statement.

The North Korean game was delayed by almost an hour while players were being coaxed back onto the pitch at Glasgow's Hampden Park stadium. They went on to beat Colombia 2-0.

Win was 'no compensation'

Commenting after the game, North Korea coach Sin Ui-gun said the players had no choice but to postpone the match.

"We were angry because our players were introduced as if they were from South Korea, which may affect us greatly as you may know," he said.

"Our team was not going to participate unless the problem was solved perfectly and fortunately some time later, the broadcasting was corrected and shown again live so we made up our mind to participate and go on with the match," he added.

"If this matter cannot be solved, we thought going on was nonsense. Winning the game cannot compensate for that thing."

Relations between North and South Korea are tense. In the absence of a formal peace treaty following a 1950-3 conflict, the two countries technically still remain at war.

In Wednesday's other matches, reigning Olympic champions the United States beat France 4-2, Japan defeated Canada 2-1 and hosts Britain overcame New Zealand 1-0. Brazil, meanwhile, thrashed Cameroon 5-0 and Sweden won 4-1 against South Africa.

The men's football competition kicks off later on Thursday.

ccp/sej(dpa, Reuters, AFP)