Olympics organisers red-faced after North Korea flag gaffe
26/07/2012 - 07:59:33
London 2012 organisers have apologised to the North Korean Olympic team following an embarrassing mix-up that saw the flag of a rival nation mistakenly displayed at their first sporting event of the Games.
The North Korean women's football team staged a protest ahead of their opening match with Colombia 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."
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.
The mix-up came after a 24-hour strike which threatened to create chaos on the eve of the Games was called off by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.
The development soothed fears that athletes and spectators arriving ahead of tomorrow's opening ceremony would be caught up in long delays at Heathrow Airport.
As the British government threatened legal action, the PCS called off its plans, claiming the creation of more than 1,000 jobs was enough progress to suspend the strike, but ministers strongly denied any concessions had been made, saying it did not recognise the PCS figures.
As the strike was called off, problems struck elsewhere as dozens of passengers were left suspended 300ft above the River Thames when a new cable car system linking two Olympic venues broke down.
More than 30 cars, carrying around 60 people, came to a halt due to a technical problem with the Emirates Air Line at 11.45am.
The £45m (€57.6m) system, which opened last month, links the O2 Arena in Greenwich - where the Olympic basketball and gymnastics are taking place - with the ExCel exhibition centre in London Docklands, which is hosting boxing and a number of other events.
One passenger, Alastair Owens, described "dangling mid-air over the docks", but all passengers were safely back in the terminal around half an hour later.
Some 30 miles of controversial Games lanes were also used for the first time across the capital yesterday, creating rush-hour jams on a number of roads including the A4 and A40 in west London, Hyde Park Corner and Euston Road.
But Locog insisted London's transport links were "working well".
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