Pleas for Rory to tee off in Rio

Sebastian Coe and Pat Hickey have expressed confidence that Rory McIlroy will tee up at the Olympic Games in 2016, despite the Ulster man’s suggestion last year that he may opt out of the event.

McIlroy has spoken in the past about the options facing him in relation to the Games — represent Ireland, represent Great Britain or, what with the fear of alienating people on either side, not showing his face at all.

It was a topic which dominated the brief media Q&A given by Coe and Hickey, the respective chiefs from the British Olympic Association and Olympic Council of Ireland, yesterday.

Both did their utmost to play down the enormity of the situation if with little success and they ultimately added they would be “surprised” if the Rio Games came and went without McIlroy’s involvement.

The priority, said Coe, was that he was there.

Not what colours he would wear.

“I wouldn’t want that to happen,” he said when it was put to him that the easiest choice for McIlroy would be not to compete.

“If we felt that he was in that position I am sure that we would then have a conversation and try and help him with that. But at the moment this is very much the autonomy of the competitor and it is absolutely right that he makes that choice.”

Coe was in Ireland yesterday to present exclusive International Olympic Council pins to Ireland’s 2012 medallists before accompanying Hickey to the IOC’s HQ in Howth for the unveiling of a sculpture to commemorate the arrival of the Olympic torch to Dublin last year.

Hickey, for his part, pointed out the dual nationality of athletes from Northern Ireland was nothing new and reiterated the point that men and women have always been allowed choose for themselves for over 80 years.

He also took the opportunity to insist that reports last year claiming he intended offering McIlroy the job of carrying the Tricolour into the opening ceremony in the Brazilian city in three years’ time in the hope that it would sway his thinking were incorrect.

“Never ever did I say that and it doesn’t come into it. Seb and I will respect the young man’s wish and if he goes for Great Britain we are very happy with that and if he goes with Ireland then the British Olympic Committee will be very happy with that. But it is the young man’s choice and there will be no politics in it.”

It is politics, nonetheless, that is the nub of this question and it was put to Coe that perhaps it would be better if there were some rule or regulation in the Olympic Charter that could allow people compete as an individual under the movement’s own flag rather than as the representative of any particular national governing body.

“I think we’re going into hugely hypothetical areas. It is hypothetical because you’re asking me about a judgment that has still to be made. I haven’t spoken to Rory McIlroy nor would I.

“That would not be the appropriate thing.

“Let him make his judgment and then, as and when he decides what he wants to do, we will figure out and support him. It’s really not that complicated.

“I don’t really want to add any more issues to it. It’s actually quite straightforward.

“He will make a judgment and whatever judgment he makes we will support.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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