Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Rory McIlroy's Olympic choice 'entirely up to him', say chiefs on both sides

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Irish and British Olympic chiefs have insisted Rory McIlroy must be allowed to make up his own mind on what country to represent in the Rio games.

Both Sebastian Coe, chairman of the British Olympic Association, and Olympic Council of Ireland executive board member Pat Hickey have denied making any attempts to persuade the world-class golfer either way.

Both said they will abide by his decision and support him through it.

Speaking at a ceremony in the Mansion House in Dublin where he presented the Irish Olympians -- including Katie Taylor, with commemorative Olympic pins, Coe said it was "very important" that Rory McIlroy has the ultimate say.

Asked if he would like to see him compete for Britain, he insisted, "It's entirely up to him."

"I don't have a personal choice here -- the athletes have the personal choice," he said.

Pat Hickey revealed no pressure had been put on him by the government to make approaches to the golfer, thanking Sports Minister Michael Ring -- also present -- for his stance on the matter.

"That great athlete Rory has clearly stated it is his choice and what people forget is that this is nothing new," he said.

"This is going on for 80 years -- an athlete in Northern Ireland has always had the choice to go for the British team or for the Irish team."

"We've never had a row or a dispute in all that time."

He claimed he was misquoted last year when it was claimed he had tried to entice McIlroy by offering to allow him to carry the Irish flag in the opening ceremony.

"It is the young man's choice and there will be no politics in it."

Katie Taylor was among those who received a pin in recognition of her gold-medal winning performance at the London Olympics.

Each of Ireland's five Olympic medallists -- Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlon and Cian O'Connor -- received a special lapel pin in gold, silver or bronze, depending on their medal.

Speaking at the event, Taylor expressed her own sympathy for McIlroy's plight. "He doesn't want to upset anyone and he has fans both in Great Britain and Ireland," she said.

Asked if she thought it was sad if he felt his position might force him not to compete at all at Rio -- the first Olympics where golf will be included -- Katie said that it would be an "awful pity".

After the ceremony, Mr Coe travelled to the headquarters of the Olympic Council of Ireland in Howth where he unveiled a sculpture to commemorate the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Dublin almost a year ago.

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