North Korean official angered by flag blunder

LONDON Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:48am EDT

Military personnel walk past a welcome sign to Olympic Park before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games July 26, 2012. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Military personnel walk past a welcome sign to Olympic Park before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games July 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - North Korea's Olympic representative Um Chang expressed outrage on Thursday at a diplomatic blunder which resulted in his country's women's soccer team leaving the field after the South Korea flag had been displayed by mistake.

"Of course the people are angry," International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Chang told Reuters television. "If your athlete got a gold medal and put the flag probably of some other country, what happens?"

The match against Colombia at Glasgow's Hampden Park on the first day of action at the London Olympics on Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremony, was delayed by more than an hour.

North and South Korea have been bitter enemies since the 1950-3 war. They have also been drawn against each other in the first round of the men's table tennis.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the incident an honest mistake and said he was sure there would be no repetition.

Earlier, in response to a question from Chang on the final day of the IOC session, president Jacques Rogge said there had been no political connotation.

"The organizing committee has taken corrective action and there will be no repeat. It was a simple human mistake," he said.

Greece, who banned triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou on Wednesday after a racist tweet, suffered further embarrassment on Thursday when the father of world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis said his son had pulled out of the Games after failing a doping test.

Speaking to reporters at the Olympic Park, Cameron said the government's priority was to ensure a safe and secure Olympics.

"NOTHING TO CHANCE"

"This is the biggest security operation in our peacetime history, bar none, and we are leaving nothing to chance," Cameron said. "Obviously the biggest concern has always got to be a safe and secure Games. That matters more than anything else."

Security has been an over-riding concern for the government and Games' organizers after four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in London the day after the British capital was awarded its third Olympics in 2005.

The penultimate day of the torch relay began on another sun-drenched day in Camden in north London and was due to finish at Westminster in the afternoon.

"It's amazing, look, people are hanging out of the windows to watch. The country has always been enthusiastic, it's just the newspapers that have been against it," said 61-year-old sales assistant Ulla Davis.

The IOC elected Britain's Craig Reedie and Moroccan Nawal El Moutawekel, the 1984 Olympic women's 400 meters hurdles gold medalist, to its two vacant vice-president's positions.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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