GOLF: Rory McIlroy withdraws from Olympic Games over Zika virus concerns

Rory McIlroy pictured with Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern after Tuesday night's game against Germany in Paris
Rory McIlroy pictured with Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern after Tuesday night's game against Germany in Paris

Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero over fears of the Zika virus.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the four-time Major winner who had been in Paris on Tuesday night for Northern Ireland’s Euro2016 Group C match against Germany, said he was not willing to take the risk of contracting the virus.

“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero,” it read.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes 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.

“I will continue to endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”

The Olympic Council of Ireland said it was extremely disappointed not to be taking McIlroy to Rio.

It said in a statement: “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 reasons.

“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.

“We are now following the IOC’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Rio 2016 organisers, the World Health Organisation and national health authorities, to ensure that Team Ireland’s athletes are kept fully updated with the latest and best advice and that they are equipped to take all necessary precautions.

“The OCI regularly updates the private Team Ireland app guidelines and we have held a number of sport seminars and workshops for team leaders, coaches and medical support staff. The OCI is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the welfare of Team Ireland’s athletes at Rio 2016,” the statment concluded.