A few years back I was in Romania to cover Arsenal’s Champions League match against Steaua Bucharest, and, finding myself with a few spare moments - this was before online journalism had fully gripped its denizens - I visited the Palace of the Parliament grandiloquently established by the former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was by then deposed, disgraced and dead.
It was a fascinating and sobering experience. I particularly noted the marble steps down to one of the main reception rooms that had had to be re-fashioned, as I recall, seven times, before the drop was declared suitable for the relatively short legs of the then Romanian President.
At one point an elderly woman in our group began sobbing and muttering. Our guide told us she had been cursing the name of the late leader, saying that her son had been taken away and killed during his rule.
We did not visit the nuclear bunker located at the eighth underground level of this vast, hubristic and still unfinished edifice, but we did go out onto a balcony overlooking a main square from which visiting superstar Michael Jackson had addressed a huge crowd during his Dangerous Tour of 1992-1993, greeting them with the words: "Hello Budapest!"
It could have been worse. Jackson could have sung the wrong national anthem.
The latest manifestation of one of life’s immutable rules - Where There Is International Gathering, Let There Be Embarrassment - occurred, as so often before, in the sporting realm, when the organisers of the inaugural Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Cup had to make hasty amends after playing the wrong national anthem for Moldova in their opening match against Belgium in Sydney on Friday.
After initially playing the Romanian anthem - close, but no cigar - organisers announced: "We are sincerely sorry and have apologised personally to Team Moldova."
Romania and Moldova are next to each other geographically. Did someone, somewhere, think that was probably good enough?
Their embarrassment would have touched an emotional chord with the authorities in charge of France’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match against Albania at the Stade de France in September, when - guess what? - the wrong anthem was played, namely that of Andorra.
Albania and Andorra are nowhere near each other. But they sound vaguely similar. Did someone, somewhere, think that would probably do?
In the end the match kicked off late after the visitors had refused to start until the correct anthem was played. Oh what fun there must have been behind the scenes during those sweaty minutes, with a stadium-full of expectant fans and TV schedules set…
But at least the Albanians were happy with the end result as they sung along exuberantly to their familiar song.
"It was a big thing," said Albania’s Italian coach Edoardo Reja.
On very, very rare occasions I have made slight errors in my copy - swiftly rectified, of course - but I have noticed there is a kind of immutable law thing that goes on here too. For instance, if you get the nationality of a sporting participant wrong, it will always be very wrong. So instead of Croatia it will be Serbia. Or instead of South Korea it will be North Korea.
This last transposition afflicted the London 2012 organisers when, mistakenly, the South Korean flag was displayed on the big screen before a women’s football match at Hampden Park in Glasgow between Colombia and…North Korea.
The North Koreans duly left the pitch, for more than an hour, but were persuaded to return once due apologies had been made.
In 2015, Armenian media reported that at the Sambo Youth Championships in Serbia, an Azerbaijani winner had to listen to the Armenian national anthem. At the time the two countries were officially, if not actively, at war.
At the 2013 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Ukraine, organisers unaccountably played the Russian national anthem for the home winner of the individual hoop event, Ganna Rizatdinova, before being loudly informed of their error by the spectators.
A particularly unfortunate lapse in a year that saw the two countries in armed conflict.
A similar but thankfully less heavy error occurred at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship, where Slovakia’s 3-2 overtime win against Italy was followed by the PA blasting out…the Slovenian anthem. Cue dismay from the Slovakian players, and uproar from the Slovakian fans.
Slovenia and Slovakia sound similar. Did someone, somewhere, think...?
In recent years there has been more than one occasion when organisers of sporting contests have played the wrong Russian anthem. This may have something to do with the fact that that it has changed twice inside 30 years.
In 1991, in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Glinka’s Patriotic Song was adopted. But in 2000, at the behest of the current Russian President Vladimir Putin, it reverted to a modified version of the old Soviet anthem.
Two years before the Slovakian embarrassment at the IIHF World Championship, there was a similar slip at the IIHF’s Under-18 Women’s World Championship, where Russia’s team were played the wrong anthem and responded by taking up a microphone and singing the correct version.
Russian athletes in the same predicament at the 2017 Biathlon World Championships in Austria did the same thing.
More awkwardness on the anthemic front took place before a 2012 hockey match between Great Britain and South Africa when the latter team heard Die Stem played - the pre-1994 anthem associated with white minority rule.
Some sporting slips lead to immediate international incidents.
At the 2003 Davis Cup final in Melbourne between Australia and Spain, a local jazz trumpeter mistakenly played the pre-civil war Himno de Riego instead of the Marcha Real. Spain’s secretary for sport, Juan Antonio Gomez Angulo ordered his team to refuse to start until they had received a formal apology for "this intolerable offence".
But perhaps the most surreal mistake in this genre occurred at the 2012 Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix, where Kazakhstan's winner Maria Dmitrienko was lauded by a parody anthem from the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy film Borat, which had been downloaded in error.
For the record, it was entitled: "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."