Search icon

World of Sport

24th Jul 2021

South Korean TV apologise for using Chernobyl image for Ukraine during Olympic ceremony

Simon Lloyd

The broadcaster faced massive social media backlash for using several offensive images to represent different countries at the Tokyo Olympics

A South Korean TV channel has issued an apology for using offensive images to depict countries during Friday’s opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics.

As athletes from each nation entered the stadium, MBC presented viewers with on-screen facts and images about their respective countries.

Many pictures played on various stereotypes – Romania, for example, featured Count Dracula – but viewers felt some of the images strayed too far.

The decision to use the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear accident of all time, was seen as particularly insensitive. After huge backlash on social media, MBC released a statement apologising to anyone offended.

“Inappropriate images and captions were used to introduce some stories,” the broadcaster said. “We apologised to those countries including Ukraine and our viewers.”

MBC also used pizza for Italy, a cryptocurrency symbol for El Salvador and the Queen for Great Britain. Haiti, who recently mourned the assassination of president Jovenel Moise, were represented on screen by images which represented upheaval. The Marshall Islands were described as “once a nuclear testing site for the United States”.

While some of the events – including the football – started earlier in the week, the Games officially opened on Friday. A subdued ceremony, which made several references to the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused its one-year delay, was hosted in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.