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Brazil's largest children's hospital writes heartfelt open letter to Rory McIlroy over Zika virus fears after Olympic withdrawal

By Cate McCurry

Published 28/06/2016

Rory McIlroy will not be playing at Rio 2016
Rory McIlroy will not be playing at Rio 2016
Rory McIlroy with his girlfriend Erica Stoll
The Little Prince Children's Hospital's letter to Rory McIlroy.
The Little Prince Hospital Complex's patron Pele with a patient
The Little Prince Hospital Complex in Brazil

The head of a children's hospital in Brazil has called on Rory McIlroy to back the fight against the Zika virus after he pulled out of the Rio Olympics over fears about the disease.

The world number four golfer, from Holywood, is the most high-profile sportsperson so far to turn down the chance to participate in the games, which start in August.

His shock decision sparked speculation he was planning to start a family with US fiancee Erica Stoll in the near future.

In an open letter to the Co Down man, Jose Carneiro, head of the Little Prince Hospital Complex in Brazil, appealed for McIlroy to "galvanise the sporting profession" to support the ongoing work of Brazilian medical research scientists battling to find a cure for the virus.

The letter challenges McIlroy to transform his "personal concerns into a practical concern" and support the scientists in their work against the virus, which is carried by mosquitoes and can cause birth defects.

"These are difficult days for the people of Brazil, with the Zika virus adding to our challenges," Mr Carneiro wrote.

"While we understand your reasons for withdrawing from the Olympics, the reality for us is that the medical profession throughout Brazil still must deal with the threats posed by the Zika virus.

"We are not only fighting to contain and eliminate the virus, but we are also working desperately to stop it from spreading to Africa and Europe and the rest of the world.

"Through our European Ambassador, Don Mullan, we have already suggested that you might consider taking a lead in galvanising the sporting profession - beginning with your golfing fraternity - in supporting our medical researchers.

"Having withdrawn from the Rio Olympics, we ask you, with dignity and respect, to transform your personal concerns around Zika into a practical concern in supporting our medical research scientists, who are not only working to protect our own mothers and children, but in the long-term all mothers and children throughout the world."

He also revealed that McIlroy had been invited to visit the hospital during his stay in Brazil.

The World Health Organisation declared the Zika epidemic an emergency, but its latest advice is that the risk of it spreading across the world because of the Olympics is "very low".

McIlroy is the most high-profile golfer to pull out of the Olympics, but he follows in the wake of Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

The patron of the Little Prince Hospital - the largest children's hospital in South America - is the legendary Brazilian footballer Pele.

Little Prince Children's Hospital letter in full:

Dear Rory McIlroy,

These are difficult days for the people of Brazil with the Zika virus adding to our challenges.

Forbes highest paid athletes top 20: 20.Philip Rivers. $38m/£26.28m (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Forbes highest paid athletes top 20: 20.Philip Rivers. $38m/£26.28m (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
19. Sebastian Vettel. Racing. $41m/£28.37m
18. Quarterback Russell Wilson. $41.8M/£28.92
17.Rory McIlroy. Golf. $42.6m/£29.36m
16. Floyd Mayweather Jr. $44m/£30.44m
15.Tom Brady. $44.1m/£30.51
14. Joe Flacco. $44.5m/£30.77m. Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
13. Eli Manning. $45m/£31.14m
12. Tiger Woods. $45.3m/£31.34m
11. Lewis Hamilton. $46m/£31.83m
10.Kobe Bryant. $50m/£34.46m
9.Jordan Spieth $52.8m/£36.39m
8. Phil Mickelson. $52.9m/£36.46m
7.Cam Newton. $53.1m/£36.72m (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
5. Kevin Durant.$56.2m/£38.7m (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
6. Novak Djokovic. $55.8m/£38.46m
4. Roger Federer. $67.8m/£46.7m
3. LeBron James. $77.2m/£53.2m
2. Lionel Messi. $81.4m/£56.1m
1. Cristiano Ronaldo. $88m/£60.6m

We awoke on Wednesday last to learn of your decision to pull out of the Rio Olympic Games. The news reports say that you have done so because of personal concerns over the Zika virus. We understand your decision but, you too will understand our disappointment as many Brazilian people were looking forward to welcoming you to our beautiful country and the Olympic Games. We are certain too the people of Ireland are disappointed at your lose to the Irish Olympic team.

As you are aware, we wrote to you on 20 May 2016 with the support of our patron, Pelé, asking you to visit our hospital, the Little Prince Children's

Hospital, the biggest paediatric hospital in all of South America, during your visit to Brazil. We had hoped that you might consider, either before or after the Olympics, playing a game of golf to help our work. We are aware and full of admiration for your sense of social responsibility around sport. We applaud you for this.

While we understand your reasons for withdrawing from the Olympics, the reality for us is that the medical profession throughout Brazil still must deal with the threats posed by the Zika virus. We are not only fighting to contain and eliminate the virus, but we are also working desperately to stop it from spreading to Africa and Europe, and the rest of the world.

Through our European Ambassador, Don Mullan, we have already suggested that you might consider taking a lead in galvanising the sporting profession, beginning with your golfing fraternity, in supporting our medical researchers. Pele has given his name to our Medical Research Institute and both Pelé, as well as the children we serve, would appreciate your humanity and support.

Having withdrawn from the Rio Olympics, we ask you, with dignity and respect, to transform your personal concerns around Zika, into a practical concern in supporting our medical research scientists who are not only working to protect our own mothers and children, but in the long-term, all mothers and children throughout the world.

We hope it will be possible to welcome you to Brazil in the future. In the meantime, we wish you good health and we look forward, hopefully, to your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

Jose Carneiro

CEO Little Prince Hospital Complex

CEO Pele Little Prince Research Institute

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