A shopping center next to the Olympic Park has displayed incomprehensible welcome signs in a garbled attempt at Arabic in the latest cultural blunder to embarrass London at a time when the eyes of the world are fixed on the British capital.
The linguistic faux-pas follows a diplomatic incident that marred the first day of competition on Wednesday, when the South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed before a soccer match between the North Korean and Colombian women’s teams.
With its huge immigrant population hailing from every corner of the world, London is often celebrated as a multicultural success story, but such gaffes risk making the vibrant Olympic host city look provincial and incompetent.
The vast and glitzy Westfield shopping center, where most visitors to the Olympic Park will pass on their way in from nearby Stratford rail station, displayed welcome signs in many languages, but printed the Arabic ones back-to-front.
“It beggars belief they cannot even write ‘welcome’ in Arabic. What will our Olympic guests be thinking? It is cringe-worthy,” Chris Doyle of the Council for Advancing Arab-British Relations (CAABU) said on the organization’s Web site.
CAABU said the garbled welcome message also appeared on staff T-shirts at the shopping center.
The Westfield blunder comes after rail company First Capital Connect also displayed information signs in back-to-front Arabic, until CAABU pointed this out and the company corrected the signs at 78 stations.