London organisers sorry for North Korea flag blunder
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
The North Korean women's soccer team sing their nation anthem before the group G match between Colombia and North Korea, prior to the start of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow. AP photoLondon Olympic organisers apologised on Thursday after a mix-up over North Korea's flag prompted its women's football team to walk off the pitch in an embarrassing start to the Games.
The North Korean squad were pictured next to the national flag of South Korea - with whom the North are officially still at war - at their opening match against Colombia on Wednesday at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland.
On the first day of sporting events ahead of Friday's opening ceremony, the North Koreans walked off but were persuaded to return an hour later, when the teams were reannounced with each player's face shown next to the correct flag.
"We made a mistake, it is as simple as that," Paul Deighton, chief executive of Games organisers LOCOG, told BBC radio.
"We have apologised and we are taking steps to make sure that absolutely can't happen again, he added.
"It was simple human error, that is why we have apologised. I can assure you that it is not going to happen again." North Korea went on to win the match 2-0.
But the team's coach Sin Ui-Gun said: "Winning the game cannot compensate this. It is a different matter. We hope there is no repeat in the next matches." Tension between North and South Korea remains high -- particularly after the North's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the United States and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
Deighton's apology came as a second row emerged over Taiwan's national flag, which has been removed from a display on one of London's busiest shopping roads, Regent Street.
Shen Lyushun, Taipei's representative in London, has demanded an explanation after the Taiwanese flag was replaced on Wednesday night with the flag of the nation's Olympic committee.
This flag has been used at the Olympic Games since the 1980s, when the International Olympic Committee ruled that Taiwan could not compete under its formal name, the Republic of China, or use its national flag.
But a spokesman for Shen said the ruling only applied to Olympic venues. "This agreement doesn't prevent us from using our national flag outside Games venues -- and this flag is in a business area, not a venue," he told AFP.
"We do hope our national flag will be put back in its original place." A spokesman for the Regent Street Association said the flags had been changed on LOCOG's advice. LOCOG did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has asked organisers to correct athletes' biographies on the Games website, which places their Ukrainian birthplaces in Russia.
The problem applies chiefly to athletes who are representing Russia but were born in the Soviet Union on the territory of modern Ukraine. The website clearly states that the Ukrainian cities where they were born are in Russia.