Rory McIlroy's decision to pull out of the Olympic Games in Rio was met with a huge reaction when he made the announcement last week.
In a statement explaining his decision, McIlroy said that "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."
Other stars who have qualified for the games expressed their dismay at his reluctance to travel to what should be one of his proudest moments as an athlete, and they have been joined by the Little Prince Hospital Complex in Curitiba.
The facility is the largest children’s hospital not just in Brazil, but in all of South America, and the patron of the hospital is Brazil’s legendary star, Pelé.
In an open letter to McIlroy, they challenge him to transform his personal concerns around the Zika virus, into a practical concern in supporting medical research scientists “who are not only working to protect our own mothers and children, but in the long-term, all mothers and children throughout the world."
The letter asks him to use his reputation and profile to galvanise the sporting profession, beginning with his golfing fraternity, to support the work of Brazilian medical research scientists at the Little Prince Research Institute.
You can read the letter in full below:
An Open Letter to Rory McIlroy from Brazil
Dear Rory McIlroy,
These are difficult days for the people of Brazil with the Zika virus adding to our challenges.
We awoke on Wednesday last to learn of your decision to pull out of the Rio Olympic Games. The news reports say that you have done so because of personal concerns over the Zika virus. We understand your decision but, you too will understand our disappointment as many Brazilian people were looking forward to welcoming you to our beautiful country and the Olympic Games. We are certain too the people of Ireland are disappointed at your lose to the Irish Olympic team.
As you are aware, we wrote to you on 20 May 2016 with the support of our patron, Pelé, asking you to visit our hospital, the Little Prince Children's Hospital, the biggest paediatric hospital in all of South America, during your visit to Brazil. We had hoped that you might consider, either before or after the Olympics, playing a game of golf to help our work. We are aware and full of admiration for your sense of social responsibility around sport. We applaud you for this.
While we understand your reasons for withdrawing from the Olympics, the reality for us is that the medical profession throughout Brazil still must deal with the threats posed by the Zika virus. We are not only fighting to contain and eliminate the virus, but we are also working desperately to stop it from spreading to Africa and Europe, and the rest of the world.
Through our European Ambassador, Don Mullan, we have already suggested that you might consider taking a lead in galvanising the sporting profession, beginning with your golfing fraternity, in supporting our medical researchers. Pelé has given his name to our Medical Research Institute and both Pelé, as well as the children we serve, would appreciate your humanity and support.
Having withdrawn from the Rio Olympics, we ask you, with dignity and respect, to transform your personal concerns around Zika, into a practical concern in supporting our medical research scientists who are not only working to protect our own mothers and children, but in the long-term, all mothers and children throughout the world.
We hope it will be possible to welcome you to Brazil in the future. In the meantime, we wish you good health and we look forward, hopefully, to your positive response.
CEO Little Prince Hospital Complex
CEO Pelé Little Prince Research Institute