SBD/July 26, 2012/Olympics

LOCOG Apologizes Following North Korea Flag Mistake That Mars Soccer Opener

N. Korea women's soccer team was upset when LOCOG showed S. Korea flag graphic
LOCOG yesterday “suffered major embarrassment” after North Korea initially refused to play its women's soccer match against Colombia after “the South Korean flag was shown on the Hampden Park big screens alongside the North Korean team lineup,” according to Ewan Murray of the GUARDIAN. The match was scheduled for 7:45pm local time. The North Korea team "did not restart their warmup until just before 8:30pm, after the flag was replaced with the correct one on the scoreboards following extensive negotiations behind the scenes” (GUARDIAN, 7/26). LOCOG “took the blame” for the mistake, and in a statement 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 AP’s Frank Griffiths writes, “The statement, however, included another gaffe: It failed to refer to the countries by their official Olympic names, causing organizers to reissue the statement using ‘Republic of Korea’ and ‘Democratic People's Republic of Korea.’” IOC Communications Dir Mark Adams “pointed” to LOCOG for the handling of the issue and said, “It’s a matter for the organizers” (AP, 7/26). LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton said the mistake was due to “simple human error.” Deighton: “We made a mistake, it is as simple as that. It wasn’t a real flag, it was a flag on a video graphic. We have taken steps to make sure that absolutely can’t happen again. We spent a lot of time with them last night explaining what had happened and why it happened and we have written a letter to them” (LONDON TIMES, 7/26).

A MATTER OF PRIDE: In London, Tom Peck writes it was a “simple mistake for a scoreboard operator to make,” but there is “history between” North and South Korea. They have “been at war since the 1950s” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/26). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Matthew Futterman writes under the header, “North Korea Outraged Over Flag Flub” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/26). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Warrell, Groom, Odell & Blitz note the Games “got off to an inauspicious start” with the flag mix-up (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/26).

STARTING WITH A WHIMPER
: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Matthew Engel writes, “It was bizarre enough that the organisers of the greatest show on earth chose to start not with a bang ... but women’s football.” The Olympics “saw a kind of explosion Wednesday night: an international incident, self-inflicted, and of an almost unimaginably embarrassing nature.” The Games “began with stuff that people did not want to watch” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/26). In London, Matt Dickinson writes, “Football is an awkward fit at the Olympic Games and there were signs all around to prove it. There were not just swaths of empty seats at the Millennium Stadium yesterday, but as many as 10,000 ticket-holders who had not shown up to watch the Great Britain women make their victorious debut” (LONDON TIMES, 7/26). The GUARDIAN’s Murray notes an attendance of 15,000 "was given for USA's win over France yesterday at Hampden Park -- more than double that number of free tickets had been distributed” (GUARDIAN, 7/26). SI's Grant Wahl wrote on his Twitter account, "Given small crowds, should have played Olympic soccer in mid-sized stadiums in/near London. Let the players feel like they're at Olympics" (TWITTER.com, 7/25). However, LOCOG claims to have sold 1.6 million tickets for the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, and 500,000 are still available." LOCOG Communications Chair Jackie Brock-Doyle said that the sales “exceed the 1.4 million sold" at Euro 2012. More tickets have been “sold for soccer than any other sports -- largely because of the size of the venues” (AP, 7/25).
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