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When it comes to national pride, there are two things you shouldn’t mess with.

One is the national flag. The second is the anthem.

You might have already heard of the mistakenly printed Indonesian flag in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 souvenir booklet.

Unfortunately, even in the largest of international sporting events, mistakes like these have happened. And it doesn’t seem like they’ll be stopping anytime soon.

We’ve rounded up some past gaffes in the international arena within the past 5 years or so, which really tells us that you really can’t be too careful when it comes to matters dealing with a country’s identity.

1. The London Olympics 2012 – The South Korean flag was displayed, instead of the North Korean one.

Tensions have long been high between North and South Korea. When the South Korean flag was shown next to their player profiles, the North Korean women’s football team left the pitch before their match against Columbia.

After apologies from the organisers, they returned to a 2-0 win.

The South Korean flag paired with the North Korean player’s profile / Image Credit: The Telegraph UK

2. The Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix, 2012 – The wrong Kazakh national anthem was played.

At the medal ceremony, instead of the Kazakh national anthem, the parody national anthem from the film Borat was played instead.

Kazakhstan’s shooting team asked for an apology, and according to their coach, the tournament organisers had also gotten the Serbian national anthem wrong.

3. The World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Ukraine, 2013 – The Ukrainian organisers played the Russian national anthem for the Ukrainian medallist. 

When it comes to mistakes, the worst might be against your fellow countrymen in your own country.

Ukrainian Ganna Rizatdinova won gold in the individual hoop event and had even started to sing along, before realising that it was the wrong anthem.

Understandably, the audience was unimpressed, and ended up jeering and catcalling.

4. The FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 2014 – The Republic of Niger’s flag was displayed instead of the Republic of Nigeria’s flag.

During the opening ceremony, Niger’s flag (three horizontal stripes with a circle in the middle) was projected onto the globe prominently on display in the center of the pitch, instead of Nigeria’s (three vertical stripes, with a white strip between two green stripes).

Image Credit: Twitter User ‏@lawseyitfc

Sure, the countries may be neighbours, but netizens were not happy with the mistake.

5. The Commonwealth Games, 2014 – India’s flag was upside down in the official song’s video.

Titled, “Let The Games Begin“, the song doubles as Glasgow Children’s 2014 Anthem for UNICEF.

Meant to feature the flags of participating countries, the national flag of India is shown upside down, about 1 minute 44 seconds into the song.

A screenshot of video with the upside down Indian flag, on the right / Image Credit: The Hindu

6. The UCI Road World Championship in Virginia, 2015 – A lot of flags were upside down.

In 2015, 92 flags were hung up to welcome the nations participating in the annual world championships for bicycle road racing.

However, it was found that the crews accidentally hung many of the flags upside down, including the American flag.

The mistake was spotted and corrected before the events began.

Some of the flags before they were corrected/ Image Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

7. The Rio Olympics 2016 – The stars on the Chinese flag were aligned wrongly. 

At the Rio Olympics, the flawed Chinese flags were used more than once, much to the ire of the Chinese officials and netizens.

Left, the flag that was displayed; Right, the actual alignment of the stars.

This resulted in many strongly worded statements from the Chinese public and officials.

Zhao Dongming, the former cultural section chief of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games, chipped in to say, “Apparently there is no supervision and checking system at the Rio Olympics, even after the incident sparked wide criticism and reached the level of a diplomatic incident more than ten days ago.”


When it comes to matters of national pride, it would bode well for organisers to just double check. And maybe triple check.

And hey, for a quick education on world flags and current events, perhaps Polandball would be a good place to start.

Incidentally, for those not in the know, Polandball is deliberately drawn upside down. The Polish flag actually has the white stripe on top.

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(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)