Furious Nike blows chance to sponsor Rory McIlroy at Olympics
Rory McIlroy may be Nike's $100m golden boy - but the sportswear giant was furious when it realised it missed a golden opportunity to sponsor his bid for an Olympic medal this summer.
That's the view of Olympic Council of Ireland boss Pat Hickey, who revealed that the US firm was offered the chance to back the Irish Olympic team this year and see the Co Down golf star sport the Nike swoosh in Rio.
Instead the deal went to Boston-based New Balance for what Hickey described as "peanuts" - believed to be less than €2m - compared to the $20m a year that Nike are paying the four-time major champion.
"Before Rory decided whether he'd declare for Team GB or Ireland we put our team gear out to contract," Hickey said at the '100 days to Rio' presentation in Dublin.
"Just in case he declared for us, we went to Nike in the UK and told them we might have Rory. But they just dismissed us out of hand and now they regret it, I believe.
"I'm told the Nike guys nearly collapsed when they heard what happened and that they'd missed a golden opportunity. Rory's agent came to us and said, 'What about Nike?' And I said, 'What about them? They had the opportunity and they missed it.'"
McIlroy was spared any political awkwardness as he was not considered as a candidate to be Ireland's flag-bearer.
After announcing that Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes would carry the flag, Hickey said: "Paddy Barnes is different. He is from the nationalist end of Belfast and he doesn't care. He is delighted to do it."