As the London 2012 Olympics come to a close, we are left to look back and reflect on the key moments of the games. One in particular that will stand out to many as a very unfortunate incident happened before the London 2012 Olympics even got underway.
The second match of the women’s football tournament was supposed to be held at 19.45 at Glasgow’s Hampdem Park two days before the inaugural opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympic Games. However, a genuine mistake with the North Korean flag led to an embarrasing situation and put the match at risk of not being played.
As the teams prepared for kick off, their lineup was announced. Next to the list of North Korean players was the South Korean flag, an error that led the team to storm off the field back to the dressing room where they refused to participate. Eventually they were persuaded to play the game, only once the error had been corrected and the correct flag was shown. Finally, after much discomfort and uncertainty for the players and spectators alike, the referee whistled the start of the game.
The obvious lack of cultural sensitivity was a huge embarrassment to organisers when they failed to realise that they had used the wrong flag on the board showing the names of the players on the North Korean women’s football national team. So many things could have gone wrong, but the fact that they showed the one flag that would cause the most offense made it even more significant.
North and South Korea have had an extremely tense relationship since they separated after the Korean War in 1950, with fairly dangerous confrontations in the last few years. Since their separation, both countries have developed a completely different mentality and perception of the world.
South Korea is an established and prosperous democracy, where people enjoy a great degree of freedom and where individuality is increasingly considered and even expected. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea, is a single-party communist country whose main value is self-reliance. People from North and South Korea may speak the same language or eat the same food, but they live differently and hold very different ideas and worldviews. Deep down, a national flag is a symbol of a country’s values and culture and North Koreans felt completely disrespected through this culturally insensitive error.
This embarrassing cultural faux-pas not only upset the Korean team, but it also upset their opposition and the spectators watching the event from the stadium and homes all across the whole world. The North Koreans felt offended and frustrated, even after their victory, which the coach said did not compensate for this cultural insensitivity. The North Koreans will struggle to ever forget this unfortunate error, despite the public apologies from the organisation.
After this event, there was even more pressure on how the London 2012 Olympic Games would run. Fortunately we can now look back on the summer games and say with pride that there were few culturally insensitive occurrences like this with such a significant impact. This reflects the required cultural sensitivity that everyone hoped the organisers could show as they staged this incredible world event.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2012