The British Olympic Association chairman, Colin Moynihan, has described the North Korean flag blunder made by London 2012 officials at Hampden Park as “an embarrassment”.
The women’s football match between North Korea and Colombia was delayed by an hour after the Asian side refused to play when the flag of bitter enemies South Korea was displayed next to the names of their players on the stadium’s big screen.
But Lord Moynihan has stressed that if Team GB had run out to a flag of another team he would have understood that it was down to human error and not any kind of malice.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) have offered their unreserved apologies to the North Korean Olympic delegation and Lord Moynihan advised them to accept.
“Locog have said that this was something they were very sorry about,” said Lord Moynihan.
“Clearly it was an embarrassment. From our point of view if it had happened to us we would recognise that the organising committee had done their best to get it right, an error had been made and we would have accepted that apology.”
The North Korea women’s football team walked off the pitch on Wednesday after the South Korea flag was displayed before their match.
“Of course the people are angry,” a North Korean official, Ung Chang, told Reuters Television, speaking in London.
“If your athlete got a gold medal and put the flag probably of some other country, what happens?”
The two Koreas are divided by the world’s most militarised border and remain technically at war after an armistice stopped the Korean War in 1953.
Locog blamed a video producer from a production company for the row. Organisers refused to name the person responsible but said they had offered to resign over the gaffe.
IOC president Jacques Rogge insisted it was a “simple human mistake” and “there was no political connotation”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to play down the blunder, saying it was an “honest mistake” and adding, “We shouldn’t over-inflate this episode. It was unfortunate, it shouldn’t have happened, and I think we should leave it at that.”
The International Olympic Committee are not treating it as a diplomatic issue but discussed the incident at their Park Lane base before their daily session began on Thursday morning.
Olympic insiders say Locog are desperate to downplay the incident so the North Korean Olympic delegation do not try to prolong or escalate the issue.
Organisers’ first chance to kill the story will come when Locog chairman Sebastian Coe is set to hold a joint Press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron outside the Aquatics Centre.
That Cameron is certain to field questions on the issue illustrates the significance of the blunder, but it is not receiving quite the same level of scrutiny on either side of the Korean peninsula.
The flag incident has been extensively reported in the South Korean media with headlines such as “North Koreans enraged by the mistake”, but it is being treated as an offbeat news item as opposed to a serious front page story.
However, it is understood that the story is not being reported at all in North Korea. — The Telegraph.