And in an act of environmental madness, Malaysia said it would reprint the offending booklets.
The common mistake caused anger in Indonesia where the “shameonyoumalaysia” hashtag has been trending on Twitter.
If inverted, Indonesia’s flag becomes identical to the Polish flag but it is even more similar to that of Monaco, which is just a little less wide.
Indonesia’s Olympic Committee chairman Erick Thohir said the mistake “shows negligence” and called for the guidebook to be pulped and reprinted.
“Friendship is the greatest legacy in sports, but a mistake in presenting a national identity is not justified,” Thohir said.
The guidebook was distributed to high-profile guests at Saturday’s opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur for the 29th SEA Games and only Indonesia’s flag was incorrectly reproduced. Indonesia’s minister for sport Imam Nahrawi was among those to be handed the offending document and he tweeted a picture of the page.
The biennial SEA Games mix Olympic events with Asean favourites like pencak silat and wushu.
The thin-skinned Nahrawi said the mishap was “very painful”.
Malaysia apologised for the “unintentional” mistake and sport minister Khairy Jamaluddin met Nahrawi at his hotel to personally apologise.
Khairy announced that the guidebooks would be corrected and reprinted, without mentioning the environmental and financial costs involved.
“We very much regret the mistake,” the Malaysian government said.
In earlier flag distress, the 2011 SEA Games booklet also mixed up the Indonesian and Thai flags in a print out of the medals table.
Indonesians tweeted that their flag represented the sacrifices of independence heroes and accused the Malaysians of either being foolish or deliberately misprinting it.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said it was a matter of “national pride”.
“We deeply regret the incident but do not exaggerate it,” the president said. “We are waiting for the apology from the Malaysian government because this concerns the national pride of our country.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, China complained that the flag used at medal ceremonies had its gold stars pointing at the wrong angle.
At the 2012 London Olympics, North Korean women’s footballers refused to play Colombia when the South Korean flag was displayed on a stadium screen.
The Muslim-majority neighbours of Malaysia and Indonesia share a similar language, food and culture.
The creation of Malaysia when British imperial forces left was bitterly opposed by Indonesia, itself then a new nation emerging from Dutch rule and brief Japanese occupation during the Second World War.
Indonesia has one of the world’s least imaginative flags. Picture credit: Wikimedia