by Sarah Slavin
This year, golf fans may be adding cheers of Erin go Bragh to their golf claps. That’s because golf is returning to the Olympics, which has led Northern Irish golfers to choose sides in a controversial decision over national identity.
The Olympic Games are adding golf to the list of events for the first time in 112 years. The Games will feature a 72-hole individual-stroke play competition for both men and women.
Because the teams are so new, the focus has shifted from sports to politics, landing players in the midst of a controversy over Irish national identity.
This subject is especially difficult because it is the 100-year anniversary of the Easter Rising, which was when Irish rebels rose up to end British rule by taking over Dublin. The event eventually led to the formation of the Independent Republic of Ireland.
One of the favorites to win gold in Rio, Rory McIlroy, hails from Northern Ireland, which is officially part of the United Kingdom. However, McIlroy has decided to play for Ireland. For McIlroy, the decision was particularly difficult as he didn’t want to alienate anyone or make any major political statement, according to espn.com.
Irish Golfer Graeme McDowell, also originally from Northern Ireland, agrees with McIlroy in the fact that this is a controversial topic.
McDowell will also be playing for Ireland in Rio, and said, “‘It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory [McIlroy] have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years because it is very difficult to pick a side because you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side,’” according to irishtimes.com.
No matter the sport, professional athletes come together for the Olympics to represent their countries and compete with pride. At the end of the day, which ever flag an athlete carries out to battle, it’s the flag that hangs above the winner’s podium that counts.