As ‘no win’ positions go, Rory McIlroy’s predicament over which country to represent at the 2016 Rio Olympics - Great Britain or Ireland - must rank right up there.
Born in County Down, Northern Ireland, Rory is eligible to play for either side and, after much deliberation, today announced that he’ll play for Ireland. He said his decision was based on his experiences of being an Irish international at amateur level.
No sooner had he announced his intentions than the backlash on social media started. ‘Surprising decision considering he previously considered himself British’ noted one Twitter user. Others were less much less kind.
The sad thing is that, if he’d made the opposite decision, the comeback would have been every bit as ferocious.
But here’s the thing: Rory McIlroy - indeed, any athlete in his position - should not have to make such a decision. Surely it ought to be incumbent of the people organising the event, in this case the International Olympic Committee, to quantify what does or doesn’t make somebody eligible for a team and, thereby, remove the element of choice from the individual?
The IOC’s Olympic Charter notes in paragraph two of point 41, ‘Nationality of Competitors’: “All matters relating to the determination of the country which a competitor may represent in the Olympic Games shall be resolved by the IOC Executive Board.”
That seems clear, right? Until you read point one of the under-noted bye-law: “A competitor who is a national of two or more countries at the same time may represent either one of them, as he may elect.”
All credit to Rory McIlroy for making this decision. With any luck people will respect it.
Eh, what? The Executive Board will resolve matters such as Rory’s - except that it won’t.
In my view, the eligibility issue should be overcome by answering one of two questions. One, which country were you born in? Two, which country have you been resident in longest?
Rory was born in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. As such, the IOC should have determined that he ought to play for Team GB (which, by rights, ought to rebrand itself Team UK to accurately reflect the demographics of its athletes).
That might not have been the decision he’d have wanted, as his choosing Ireland would suggest, but it would have taken a near-impossible, politically-charged matter out of his hands.
That an organisation the size of the IOC either can’t or won’t take responsibility for this issue speaks volumes. Meanwhile, Rory and Co. are left to bear the brunt.
All credit to McIlroy for making this decision. With any luck people will respect it and accept it must have been a difficult conclusion for him to come to. The sad truth, though, is that it is a position he should never have found himself in.
Rory McIlroy's decision: Your thoughts
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