Dublin - Golfing
great Rory McIlroy delivered a blow to Ireland's hopes of an Olympic
medal on Wednesday when he said he would not be going to the Rio Games
over fears of the Zika virus.
"After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my
name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de
Janeiro," the 27-year-old four-time major champion said in a statement.
"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health come before anything else.
"Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered
low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.
"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering
support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or
abroad means the world to me," added McIlroy, who was present at the
Euro 2016 match between his native Northern Ireland and Germany in Paris
The decision by McIlroy - the latest of several major winners to
announce they would not go to the Games despite it returning to the
quadrennial sports extravaganza for the first time since 1904 - left
the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) dejected.
"The OCI is extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to
Rio," read a statement from the Council, whose president is IOC
Executive Board member Pat Hickey.
"However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of
course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal
"Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there
is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to
become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the
Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.
"The OCI and our medical team have taken our lead from the IOC on the
Zika situation, as we do in all matters. They have provided us with
every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe
for all athletes."
Despite Hickey's reassurances, McIlroy is the latest high profile
golfer to pull out. Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc
Leishman and Vijay Singh have already said they will not travel to
American star Jordan Spieth has said he still intends to go although
he added last week that that situation could change as his health
outweighs that of being an Olympian.
Replacing McIlroy will probably be his Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow
Northern Irishman Graham McDowell alongside the higher-ranked Shane
Lowry, who led the US Open going into the final round last Sunday.
More than 60 countries and territories have been affected by the
ongoing Zika outbreak. Most of them are in Latin America, the Caribbean
and the South Pacific.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause the birth defect
microcephaly, leading babies to be born with unusually small heads and
The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, said earlier this month
that there was a "very low risk" of the Zika virus spreading further
internationally as a result of the Olympic Games.