A major diplomatic incident
marred the first day of competition at the London Olympics on
Wednesday when the North Korea women's football team walked off
after the South Korea flag was mistakenly displayed before their
match against Colombia.
The error occurred in Scotland at Glasgow's Hampden Park
stadium which was hosting one of the day's six matches kicking
off the women's tournament and led to a lengthy delay before the
game eventually started.
Kicking off almost an hour later than the scheduled start
time of 18:45 GMT, North Korea were far more composed on the
pitch and went on to record a 2-0 victory.
In the day's other games, reigning Olympic champions the
United States, bidding for a third successive gold, came from
behind to beat France 4-2, world champions Japan defeated Canada
2-1 and hosts Britain overcame New Zealand 1-0.
Brazil, among the favourites for gold, thrashed Cameroon 5-0
and Sweden, another possible medallist, thumped South Africa
But the drama in Glasgow marked a day in which sporting
action began around Britain two days before the official opening
ceremony in London on Friday.
The trouble started when the South Korea flag was shown on a
giant screen before the kick-off of the Group G match at Hampden
Park, one of five venues hosting games outside London, and
Olympic organisers had to issue an apology.
"The South Korean flag was shown in the video package on the
screen before the kick-off and the North Koreans were naturally
very upset about that," Hampden Park media manager Andy Mitchell
"We have made a full apology to the team and the North
Korean NOC [National Olympic Committee]. A genuine mistake was
made for which we apologise. Steps will be taken to ensure it
does not happen again."
When asked if he thought it was an accident, North Korea
coach Sin Ui-gun was not so sure and said he would ask the
organisers the same question.
"We were angry because our players were introduced as if
they were from South Korea, which may affect us greatly as you
may know," he said.
"Our team was not going to participate unless the problem
was solved perfectly and fortunately some time later, the
broadcasting was corrected and shown again live so we made up
our mind to participate and go on with the match," he added.
"If this matter cannot be solved, we thought going on was
nonsense. Winning the game cannot compensate for that thing."
The U.S. also had an unfortunate start to their match with
France in the earlier match at Hampden but at least that was
only because of what happened on the field.
France raced into a 2-0 lead against the title holders after
only 14 minutes before the U.S. rallied to take all three points
with Alex Morgan scoring twice, Abby Wambach once and substitute
Carli Lloyd grabbing the other.
It was a memorable day for hosts Britain who won the first
ever Olympic match they have played, beating New Zealand at
Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in the first event of the London
Steph Houghton, who missed the 2007 World Cup and 2009 European Championship through injury, scored Britain's winner with a
second half free-kick.
"It was something special and I'm sure my family are very
proud. I don't think it will sink in for a while. I'm just glad
it got us the win," she told reporters.
Brazil, playing in the second match at Cardiff, were highly
impressive in demolishing Cameroon with Marta, World Player of
the Year five times, scoring twice including a penalty.
Cristiane, who came on as a substitute at the start of the
second half, also scored to take her overall tally of Olympic
goals to 11, the all-time women's Olympic scoring record.
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