Justin Doyle After all the recent to-ing and fro-ing concerning which country he will represent at the Brazil Olymics in 2016, a sensational new development has emerged. It could finally end the debate and swing the balance of Rory’s patriotic allegiances very much in favour of Ireland.
Pat Hickey, the longstanding President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, told the Daily Telegraph on Friday that although the decision will ultimately come down to golf’s World No.1, he is ready to make Rory the offer of a lifetime, as he revealed:
“I will say to Rory – and you can quote me on this – that if he declares for Ireland, then he will automatically put himself in pole position to carry the Irish tricolour into the Olympic stadium in Rio.” Hickey, who is now one of the most powerful figures in the Olympic movement after his recent elevation to the Board of the International Olympic Committee, and who is also tipped to be a future President of the IOC, made no secret of his admiration for McIlroy:
“What he has done on the world stage for Irish golf is absolutely astonishing. Personally, I would dearly love for him to represent Ireland.” Golf is yet another new sport which the OCI and Hickey will anticipate with relish.
Well known for seeking out Olympic sports new to Ireland and with very good ‘medal potential’, Hickey will be looking to tap into the great pool of Irish golfing talent.
In relation to another top Irish golfer, Hickey expressed his ‘shock’ and ‘surprise’ at how this whole Olympic debate escalated further with the recent comments of three time major winner Padraig Harrington. He stopped short of revealing his actual views on Harrington’s outburst saying that they would remain “off the record”.
On his way to work he revealed how he tuned in his car radio and in disbelief heard Harrington tell RTE’s Pat Kenny morning show that he and other Irish golfers would have a far better chance of representing Ireland if McIlroy declared for Team GB.
Nevertheless, Harrington and the exploits of others on the world stage over the past ten years have been phenomenal and they have given Ireland a rich pool of talent to choose from. But the Irish Olympic supremo is eager to win over golden boy McIlroy, adding:
“You know it was over two years ago when Rory made some rash comments about representing Team GB. I think that he was perhaps a little immature back then and although he reiterated them again recently, in his present state of mind right now, I feel that he might be thinking differently.” McIlroy would be very aware of the huge incentive that flag-bearing would carry.
Some of sport’s greatest names like tennis stars Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova all carried their countries flags with honour and pride. Indeed Rory’s great friend Rafa Nadal was due to carry the Spanish flag in London until injury struck.
His star in golf is rising at a rapid rate but it would be nothing compared to the world wide fame he would gain from entering the Olympic stadium as a flag-bearer. Already known to millions of golf fans, he would suddenly rocket to worldwide ‘sporting’ fame.
Quite apart from his growing golfing and financial exploits, this would represent the chance of a lifetime for Rory. Hickey, with his own powerful status, has now parked his offer on the front row of the grid and his last words on the subject really drive home a sobering thought for Rory.
The charismatic Irish Olympic President also feels Rory now has a tremendous opportunity ahead of him in the race to Rio, as he declared:
“Can you just imagine what something like this would do for Rory McIlroy.
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. Just look at Katie Taylor.” (Justin Doyle is Author of ‘Rory – His Story So Far’ and the autobiography of Christy O’Connor Junior which is out in October entitled ‘Christy – From Rough to Fair Ways’)