Flags off of the Fairway Find Olympic Golf in the Rough
The Rio Olympics brought an end to Golf’s 112-year absence from the Games. Aspirations to grow the sport and raise its prominence throughout the public domain were the aims behind the reinstatement. However with a selection of ‘Hollywood’ names including Rory McIlroy from a similarly named but all-too different Holywood, Northern Ireland, opting to withdraw from the competition; it was only to be the latter which was truly achieved.
Widespread fears proved too great for many regarding the Zika virus cast throughout Brazil. This too was the alleged reasoning behind McIlroy’s personal omission, but following the completion of the Games, it was announced by the Northern Irishman that his real Olympic concerns festered much closer to home than the mosquito-borne virus almost 6,000 miles across the Atlantic.
In an interview with the ‘Sunday Independent’, the four-time major champion opened up about his discomfort in determining whether to devote his allegiances to Ireland or Great Britain at the Olympic Games.
“It put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who do I not want to upset the most?”
In an attempt to avoid criticism from corners of the shores surrounding his birthplace, McIlroy found himself to be a figure for flaring criticism across the global golfing body. The question therefore needs to be asked; was it all necessary?
A decision Northern Irish athletes inevitably have to make is to choose which colour of flag they will represent. Whilst this choice may cause certain controversy for some, it must not be one which deters future stars from participating in the Olympic Games.
“I don’t know the words to either anthem. I don’t want it to be about flags. I’ve tried to stay away from that”.
McIlroy has a fan base which stretches across the entirety of Ireland and mainland United Kingdom. Yes, he may have been stood on the podium listening to only one of either the Irish or British National Anthem, but this would not tell the full story as to why he is stood with a medal around his neck.
As sports stars set foot onto the course, the field, the court, or wherever it may be; they are representing the fans who show their support throughout the star’s career. They represent the families who raised them alongside the sport, the coaches who mentored them and allowed their abilities to flourish. They represent the hopes and dreams, hunger and imagination of the next generation who watch on and remember the spot they were in when they witnessed their sporting hero triumph and ignite a fire within them to do likewise on the world stage. They represent so much more than the colour of flag raised for those too few moments within their career; and so whatever colours those may be, it is the pride of the people who stand by them which is truly represented during those historic occasions.
McIlroy’s decision to not compete in the Olympics is one which cannot set an example for future athletes who may find themselves in a similar predicament regarding which national flag they should have raised above their heads. Rather than feeling anguish as to who they are outwardly representing, they should experience immense pride for representing all who support them and the sport they dedicate themselves to. The spirit of the Olympic Games is to unite and bring people closer together. Fears of your participation performing the opposite effect should never co-exist.