KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Southeast Asian Games organizers have apologized to Indonesia after its flag was printed upside-down in a souvenir magazine, prompting a scathing response from the team and anger on social media.
Malaysia’s Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was also due to apologize in person to his Indonesian counterpart after the magazine was handed out to dignitaries at Saturday’s opening ceremony.
Indonesia’s flag has a red stripe above a white stripe, but it was printed with the white stripe on top — which made it look like the flag of Poland.
“We would like to sincerely apologize to the people of Indonesia for the inadvertent error of publishing the wrong flag for Indonesia,” SEA Games organizers said in a statement.
“We very much regret the mistake and trust the strong bond between the two countries will further strengthen in the spirit of the SEA Games,” they added.
Indonesia had been quick to point out the mistake, with their Olympic committee chief, Inter Milan president Erick Thohir, slamming Malaysia’s “negligence”.
“Of course, I am expressing my deep regret on this fault, which shows negligence and absent-mindedness,” he said in a statement.
“Friendship is the greatest legacy in sports, but a mistake in presenting a national identity of a nation is not justified. We in the world of sport however do not let things such as this interfere with the relationship between countries.”
Indonesian fans were enraged by the lapse, with #ShameOnYouMalaysia the country’s top trending topic on Twitter early on Sunday.
It wasn’t the only mistake involving Indonesia: a SEA Games booklet also mixed up Indonesia and Thailand’s flags in reprint of the medals table from 2011.
The 11-nation SEA Games, which gets into full swing on Sunday, is not alone in making mistakes with participants’ flags — and receiving strong complaints afterwards.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, China complained bitterly that the flag used at medal ceremonies had its small gold stars pointing at the wrong angle.
At the 2012 Olympics, North Korea’s women’s footballers refused to play, delaying the start of their game with Colombia, when their images were shown next to the South Korea flag on a stadium screen.