North Korea initially refused to play their Olympics women’s football match with Colombia on Wednesday night after a South Korean flag was shown on the Hampden Park big screens alongside their team lineup.
The North Koreans left the pitch in protest shortly before the end of their scheduled warm-up for their first London 2012 game amid scenes of high farce. Kick-off was due at 7.45pm but the team did not return to restart their warm-up until shortly before 8.30pm, after the flag was replaced with the correct one on the scoreboards following extensive negotiations behind the scenes. The match eventually kicked off at 8.50pm.
The incident will cause huge embarrassment to the Games’ organisers, who have struggled to raise interest in football matches due to be played in Glasgow. An attendance of 15,000 was given for the USA’s win over France; more than double that number of free tickets had been distributed.
London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games issued an apology to the North Korea team. “Today ahead of the women’s football match at Hampden the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen instead of the flag of North Korea,” a Locog statement read. “Clearly that is a mistake. We will apologise to the team and the national Olympic committee and steps will be taken to ensure no repeat.”