July 25, 2012
LONDON CALLING (DAY 2)
It certainly wasn't a flag day at Hampden Park
By Michael Lewis
GLASGOW -- Sports and politics, some say, go together like water and oil.
Well, it if that is the case; they set the oil on fire with loads of gasoline at Hampden Park on Wednesday night.
In one memorable blunder, someone accidentally used pictures of North Korean players with the South Korean flag.
What were they trying to do, set off a new Korean War or an international incident?
Did someone forget to take his or her smart pill on Wednesday? Did the person in charge of the flags not know that there are major, major differences between North and South Korea and if he or she used the flag of the other country, the other party would be insulted?
I was sitting in the Hampden Park media room, minding my own business typing away when I heard about the mess. Across the room, volunteers were handing out sheets of papers with one paragraph statement from the LOCOG, apologizing for the sorry incident.
Actually, I can't blame the players at all. Let's say that happened to you and on the scoreboard there was your picture and next to it was the flag of an enemy of your country.
Let's face it, tensions between the two neighboring countries, at best are strained and this certainly did not help things at all.
I went through a similar situation many, many years ago when I first started out at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, covering the Rochester Lancers. If my memory serves me right, the Lancers were hosting Lazio of Italy's Serie A in an international friendly in a mid-week encounter at Holleder Stadium.
They started to play the national anthem and only seconds into it the crowd started booing and looking at the press box with disdain on their faces.
They played the wrong anthem?
It wasn't the modern one, but one from Mussoliniís time in Fascist Italy.
A writer from Italy turned to me in the press box and put his fingers together. "Fascist! Fascist," he said.
The booing died down and they played the game. I forgot what the score was (something in the back of my mind tells me it was a scoreless draw), but I certainly remember the incident. As will many soccer fans who attended the game on Wednesday.
In case you were wondering, North Korea won, 2-0. But that did not soothe the feelings of the players.
"We were angry because our players were introduced as if they were from South Korea, which may affect us greatly, as you might know," North Korea coach Sin Ui Gun said.
"Winning the game cannot compensate; it is a different question, a different matter. . . Although we won the game, we hope this will not happen again in the next matches."
Well, it better not.
Yes, there are scrambled eggs on the faces of many LOCOG officials for an incident that could have been avoided. And the Summer Games haven't even begun yet. The opening ceremonies are Friday and already we have had an international incident.
So, what's next in what is the planet's quadrennial five-ring circus