McIlroy can carry flag at Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony if he represents Ireland, says Hickey
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
October 10 - Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) President Pat Hickey has claimed that golf star Rory McIlroy can carry the Irish flag at the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony if he represents the country at the Games.
The 23-year-old from County Down in Northern Ireland is currently ranked world number one and is set to be a major gold medal contender at Rio 2016, when golf will be making its first appearance at the Olympics since St Louis in 1904.
McIlroy is eligible to represent both Britain and Ireland at the Olympics but recently came out with a public statement saying he had not decided which one he would choose to compete for.
But Hickey, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member, has looked to persuade McIlroy to pick Ireland by offering him the honour of carrying the flag.
"I will say to Rory 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 told The Daily Telegraph.
"What he has done on the world stage for Irish golf is absolutely astonishing.
"Personally, I would dearly love for him to represent Ireland."
Hickey predicted that carrying the flag would help McIlroy's star rise even higher.
"Can you just imagine what something like this would do for Rory McIlroy," he said.
"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."
McIlroy has previously claimed he would "probably play for Great Britain" and has "always felt more British than Irish" before retracting the statements in a public letter in which he said he hasn't decided who he will compete for and is in "an extremely sensitive and difficult position".
But Hickey feels the golfer's previous comments will have no bearing on his decision.
"You know it was over two years ago when Rory made some rash comments about representing Team GB," he said.
"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."