Brazilian legend Pele says he will not light Olympic flame due to poor health
Brazil football legend Pele said poor health will prevent him from lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremony on Friday as he had hoped to do.
“Right now I am not in physical condition to take part in the opening of the Olympics” the 75-year-old said in a statement published by Brazilian media.
Pele, who in 1999 was elected by the International Olympic Committee as the Athlete of the Century and whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is considered by many as the greatest football player of all time.
Pele, 75, underwent hip surgery at the end of last year and his rehabilitation has been difficult.
Pepito Fornos, a Pele spokesman, confirmed that Pele would not light the cauldron, saying that “the muscles in his leg that is being rehabilitated are not sufficiently strong enough”.
“He is walking with a cane. The problem is that if he sits in a chair you need a winch to get him out of it,” Fornos said.
“His doctor thought it best that he continues physiotherapy, that he rests and we hope that he will be able to appear at the [Olympic] closing.”
Pele said earlier this week that he had been asked to light the cauldron, but also said he needed to consult some commercial sponsors on whether he contractually would be able to do that.
Organisers have kept tight-lipped about the details of the ceremony and had not confirmed whether Pele would take part, repeatedly refusing to comment on who might light the cauldron - the symbol of the Games that remains lit until the closing ceremony.
Despite being named Athlete of the Century, Pele never actually competed in an Olympics.
He has often joked that the reason Brazil has never won an Olympic gold medal in soccer is because he never played for the team.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse