London 2012 organisers have apologised to the North Korean Olympic team following an embarrassing mix-up that saw the flag of a rival nation mistakenly displayed at their first sporting event of the Games.

The North Korean women's football team staged a protest ahead of their opening match with Colombia after the South Korean flag was wrongly shown on a big screen before kick-off.

As a consequence, the players walked off the pitch and refused to start yesterday's match at Hampden Park in Scotland at the scheduled 7.45pm start time.

korean flag

Quite a big mistake: the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen rather than the North Korean flag

They were persuaded to return to the field about an hour later when the sides were announced again with each player's face displayed next to the North Korean flag.

The controversy came as Team GB's women footballers got off to a winning start by beating New Zealand 1-0 on the first day of competitive action.

A second-half goal by 24-year-old Stephanie Houghton clinched victory for Great Britain in Cardiff and put them on track for a place in the last eight of the 12-team contest.

olympics north korea flag

The wrong flag was emblazoned across the big screen at Hampden Park

The men's football team will kick off their opening Olympics fixture against Senegal at Old Trafford later tonight.

Following the blunder in Scotland, Games organisers Locog issued a statement apologising for the confusion.

It said: "Ahead of the women's football match at Hampden Park, the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen video package instead of the North Korean flag.

"Clearly this is a mistake. We will apologise to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again."

olympics north korea flag correct

The team came back to play but only after the right flag had been shown next to pictures of each team member

South Korea and North Korea exist as neighbours but have a far from harmonious relationship. The countries were formally established as separate entities in 1948, and the Korean War began in 1950.

Only two years ago, North Korean artillery shells killed four people, two from the military and two civilians, on Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea.