By Tom Degun

rory McIlroy_24-10-12October 24 - Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) President Pat Hickey has clarified his comments on Rory McIlroy, revealing that he has been completely misquoted in saying that the golf star can carry the Irish flag at the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony if he represents the country at the Games.

The 23-year-old world number one, who is from County Down in Northern Ireland, can represent either Britain or Ireland at Rio 2016 but has not yet decided who he will compete for when golf makes its first appearance at the Olympics in over 100 years.

Earlier this month, Hickey was widely quoted as saying McIlroy (pictured top) could carry the Irish flag at the Opening Ceremony if he chose to compete for Ireland but the OCI President says this is far from the truth.

"It is great to get the opportunity to clarify this issue because I was completely and utterly misquoted by the journalist concerned," Hickey told insidethegames.

"The McIlroy issue has been discussed for a long-time in Ireland and I've always kept out of it on the basis that he has another three years to go before he has to make a decision on it.

"The journalist asked me for a comment for a book he is updating on McIlroy and he wanted an Olympic comment.

"A book is very different to the newspaper of tomorrow so I agreed to the interview and told him that Rory has plenty of time to make his mind up, that there is no rush and that he is no different from any other athlete in Northern Ireland and therefore free to compete for either Ireland or Britain.

"I also made it clear that we have a great relationship with the British Olympic Association (BOA) and that we have never had an argument down the years about any athlete, even at the height of the troubles with the war in Northern Ireland.

"When he asked if Rory would be considered to carry the flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremony if he choose Ireland I answered: 'Of course he would, at the level he is at, he would be a strong contender.'

"But I explained that particular decision is never made until about a week before the Games.

"He then sold that story straight to the Daily Telegraph and the Irish Independent but with false comments.

"It spread from there.

"I never used the expression pole position that he used and I certainly never used that ridiculous line that this would make McIlroy more famous.

"I think I was quoted as saying that if McIlroy carries the flag, he would be one of the most famous people on earth.

"What a lot of rubbish.

"That comment in particular is so stupid.

"He is already famous

"So I'm using every opportunity to correct it.

"I contacted the journalist, who apologised to me, but it is terrible to be treated like that."

pat hickeyOCI President Pat Hickey was "utterly misquoted" in comments over Rory McIlroy’s Flagbearer role at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Hickey, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member, says that despite the continued debate around McIlroy, the golfer should be left alone on the issue.

"My stance on this is the same as it has always been; that McIlroy should be left alone and he should be allowed to relax," he said.

"He has three years to think about it and whatever he decides will be respected by all.

"It will be respected by us and it will be respected by the BOA.

"It is not something I want to discuss.

"If I had wanted to say something, I would have said it around six months ago when the debate in Ireland was huge.

"Several journalists asked me for a comment back then and I said no because this is McIlroy's choice and he should be left in peace to make it."

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