Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Rory McIlroy will be Olympic flag-bearer at Rio -- if he picks Team Ireland

Rory McIlroy is competing in this week's World Golf Final
Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 12: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks with the media during a practice round prior to the start of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Golfer Rory McIlroy will be offered the chance to carry the Irish flag at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics in return for pledging his sporting allegiance to Team Ireland.

Pat Hickey, the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, has attempted to sway the world number one after years of speculation about who McIlroy will declare for.

"I will say to Rory that if he declares for Ireland, then he will automatically put himself in pole position to carry the Tricolour into the stadium in Rio," said Mr Hickey, who is also a board member on the International Olympic Committee.

"What he has done on the world stage for Irish golf is absolutely astonishing. Personally, I would dearly love for him to represent Ireland."

In 2009, he claimed he would "probably play for Great Britain" as he has a UK passport, a stance he reiterated last month when he hinted in an interview that he has "always felt more British than Irish".

McIlroy subsequently insisted he had not made up his mind, prompting Mr Hickey to tempt him to declare for Ireland with talk of being flag-bearer.

Golf makes its first appearance at the summer games since 1904 at the Rio Olympics.

"Can you just imagine what something like this would do for Rory McIlroy?" Mr Hickey added.

"It would suddenly catapult him into the realms of being one of the most instantly recognisable sporting faces on the planet. Because make no mistake about it, that's what carrying the flag does for people."

He said that he did not think that McIlroy had yet made up his mind despite a series of comments on who he might choose to represent.

McIlroy, already well established as one of golf's true superstars, will be aware of the incentive that flag-bearing would carry.

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