A big uproar has shaken the London Games even before its official start. The organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korea’s flag on a screen instead of North Korea's before a women's soccer match, prompting the team to walk off the pitch.
The blatant incident occurred during player introductions before North Korea’s game against Colombia. A North Korean player was displayed along with a shot of the South Korean flag when the teams were already on the pitch during the pre-match ceremony.
The match was delayed for more than an hour, as the North Korean side had gone into their dressing room. Only after organizers apologized for the error did the action resume.
The mix-up apparently boosted the Asian team as they beat their South American opponents 2-0.
“We were angry because our players were introduced as if they were from South Korea, which may affect us very greatly as you might know,” coach Sin Ui-gun said through an interpreter afterwards.
“If this matter couldn't have been resolved, then I thought going on would be nonsense,” he also noted.
The Games organizing committee took all the blame.
“Clearly that is a mistake,” organizers said. “We will apologize to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”
The North Korean players refused to speak to reporters after the game. Two of them passed through the press zone carrying flags, the correct North Korean ones.
North Korea and South Korea are old and bitter rivals. The tension between the nations has never ceased since the Korean War in the early 1950s.
North Korea isn’t the only country to suffer from the glaring mistakes of the Games’ organizers.
The Ukrainian Olympic delegation filed an official request to the London 2012 Olympic Committee to urgently correct all the mistakes on its website, where Ukraine was called one of Russia’s regions.
The organizers mistakenly named the birthplace of almost 30 sportsmen as the Ukrainian region of Russian Federation.
The athletes were born before the break-up of the Soviet Union, so their foreign passports indicated ‘USSR’ as their country of birth – which the Olympic organizers didn’t hesitate to automatically change to Russian Federation.
Georgia is also among those to complain.
Tbilisi was furious to learn that its former territories and now two independent states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been also registered as parts of Russia.
The confusion came when the organizers tried to put in the dossier the birthplace of the two sportsmen now participating for Russia.
The birthplace therefore said South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but with (RUS) in brackets, meaning these are the territories of Russia.
And there’s uproar among Arabic speaking visitors and residents of the host city. On Wednesday a shopping center next to the Olympic Park displayed incomprehensible welcome signs in a failed attempt at Arabic.
The glamorous Westfield shopping center, where most visitors to the Olympic Park will pass on their way in from the nearby Stratford rail station, displayed welcome signs in many languages but printed the Arabic ones back-to-front.
“It beggars belief they cannot even write ‘welcome’ in Arabic. What will our Olympic guests be thinking? It is cringe-worthy,” said Chris Doyle of the Council for Advancing Arab-British Relations (CAABU), on the organization’s website.
CAABU said the corrupted welcome message also appeared on staff T-shirts at the shopping center.
On Thursday, the center made the necessary corrections.
Westfield is located in Newham, a district of London that is home to a high proportion of immigrants, many of them from Arabic-speaking countries.
This inaccuracy comes after rail company First Capital Connect also showed information signs in back-to-front Arabic, until CAABU pointed this out and the company corrected the signs at 78 stations.
“After First Capital Connect and now Westfield, we must start to wonder just how many other Arabic signs printed for the Olympics are nonsensical,” said Doyle.