Rio 2016 officials apologize to China for using wrong flag

Incorrect Chinese flags are flanked by an American flag during a medal ceremony for the 10m air rifle competition.

Story highlights

  • An incorrect Chinese flag has been raised during medal ceremonies in Rio
  • Both flags look similar but their stars are aligned differently

Rio de Janeiro (CNN)Olympics officials in Rio have apologized after discovering they were raising an incorrect Chinese national flag during medal ceremonies.

Both Chinese flags are red and feature a large yellow star flanked by four smaller stars. But there are subtle differences in how the smaller stars are aligned.
    "We do understand that there is a problem with the flag," said Mario Andrada, Rio 2016 Olympic Games executive communications director, on Monday. "It's very small. You have to be very familiar with the Chinese flag to understand that. However, we need to correct it."
    Viewers in China spotted the mistake and took to Sina Weibo -- a Chinese social media site -- to complain, according to China News Service (CNS), the state-run news agency.
    Although minor, the mistake bothered people in China. State-run newspaper People's Daily said, "the botched flag has been a source of public disappointment among Chinese netizens and viewers."
    On the correct Chinese flag the four smaller stars should be rotated so that they point toward the center of the larger star. Instead, the flags used in Rio were positioned parallel to each other -- like the stars on the American flag, for example.
    The correct Chinese national flag, displayed by fans at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
    Andrada said the flags made for Rio "had been approved by the Chinese prior to production."
    "This problem was discovered during the weekend. Yesterday we managed to contact the company producing these flags and they are producing a bunch of flags correctly now, so the first flags should be delivered here shortly," Andrada said on Monday.
    At least Rio officials aren't alone in their China flag flub. On Saturday, Australia's Channel 7 network used the Chilean national flag instead of the Chinese flag.
    And it's not the first time a mistaken flag was displayed at an Olympics. In London in 2012, members of North Korea's women's soccer team walked off the field when the flag of South Korea was mistakenly flashed on the big screen before their match against Colombia.
    Organizers of the London Games issued a hasty apology, and eventually the North Korean team returned to beat the Colombian team 2-0.
    Anthems also sometimes get jumbled up. In this year's Copa America, Uruguay's players were left confused before their match with Mexico when the national anthem of Chile was played.