Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy: I probably won’t play at Tokyo Olympics

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Rory McIlroy said he will likely skip the Tokyo Olympics because he can’t compete under Northern Ireland’s flag, which is not surprising given his recent comments about his Olympic golf situation.

“More likely than not, I won’t be going to the Games in 2020, just because of my personal feeling towards not the Olympic Games, the Olympic Games are great, and I think golf included in the Olympic Games, it’s fantastic, but just for me it’s something that I just don’t want to get into,” McIlroy said in a BBC interview published Tuesday. “That’s a personal choice, and hopefully people respect that decision.”

The BBC interview was published two days after McIlroy’s comments about resenting the Olympics were published by the Irish Independent.

The world No. 2 golfer said he didn’t like being put in an uncomfortable position of having to choose between representing two flags with which he feels no connection, according to the newspaper.

When golf was readded to the Olympics for the Rio Games, McIlroy knew that if he was going to play, he couldn’t represent his native Northern Ireland, which does not field an Olympic team separate from Great Britain. So he had to choose between Great Britain and Ireland and in 2014 picked the latter, which he had previously represented at the World Cup of Golf in 2009 and 2011.

Then, less than two months before the Rio Olympics, McIlroy announced he would skip the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.

In the months that followed, McIlroy hinted that other reasons went into his decision, perhaps primarily — that he didn’t consider Olympic golf that prestigious. Or because of the politics concerning which country he would represent.

The latest BBC interview suggests national representation is the biggest roadblock. Maybe the only one.

“A decision that I fought with myself for so many years,” McIlroy said in the BBC interview. “Just for me, I’m a very conflicted person, and not a lot of people understand that, maybe.”

Tokyo 2020 might be McIlroy’s last shot at the Olympics, as golf isn’t guaranteed a place in the Olympic program beyond that.

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

USOC expects to discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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PARK CITY, Utah — USOC leaders are expected to discuss a possible Winter Olympic bid as early as next month.

The U.S. could bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympics. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said it would be more difficult to bid for 2026 with the 2028 Summer Games set for Los Angeles.

Salt Lake City, Denver, Reno-Tahoe and other cities have expressed interest in bidding, Blackmun said Monday.

The USOC executive board meets Oct. 13. USOC chairman Larry Probst said they “need to talk about” a possible Winter Olympic bid and whether it could be for 2026 or 2030 or later down the line.

The USOC has focused on Summer Olympic bids since 2003. It was officially awarded the 2028 Olympics 12 days ago.

Blackmun added Monday that he hopes multiple U.S. cities could participate in the IOC’s invitational phase for possible bids over the next year. That phase is for cities to receive feedback before formally deciding to put forward a bid.

IOC members are expected to vote in 2019 to determine the 2026 Winter Olympic host.

Sion, Switzerland, is the only city to confirm bid plans.

Probst, an IOC member, also expects Innsbruck, Austria, to bid to become the first city to host the Winter Olympics three times. A public vote for a possible Innsbruck bid to move forward is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Calgary and Stockholm could also bid.

I think [IOC president] Thomas Bach has publicly stated that he would like to see the Winter Games return to a more traditional location,” Probst said. “So, to me, that’s code for Europe or North America. … We’ll have to monitor that, see what the situation looks like and then develop our strategy for whether we’re going to bid for the next Winter Games or longer than that.”

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MORE: Austria looks into multi-country 2026 Winter Olympic bid

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The USOC has honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

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