Rio Olympics 2016: 1 day to go

Olympics: Pele held back in bid to ring in the Games

Pele holding the Olympic flame at the Pele Museum in Santos, Brazil.
Pele holding the Olympic flame at the Pele Museum in Santos, Brazil.PHOTO: AFP

Football legend may be censured by naming rights, as opening gala promises best of Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO • Pele has been invited to light the Olympic cauldron tomorrow, but the Brazilian football great will need to first check with his sponsors to see if he is free to lead the torch ceremony at the Maracana stadium.

"I have a contract that I am bound to fulfil," he told Brazil's Globo TV on Tuesday, adding he would consult the US company holding the rights to his brand name whether he can take up the invitation from the Games' organising committee.

"As a Brazilian, I'd love to do it," said the 75-year-old, who helped his country win the World Cup three times and would be launching the Games in the stadium where he scored his 1,000th goal in 1969.

Pele later said International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and the head of the Brazilian Olympic organising committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman had personally asked him to light the pyre and that he would have an answer by today.

Pele is regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever to grace the game. But he thinks world-record holder Usain Bolt has surpassed his own legacy.

The Brazilian regards the Jamaican sprinter as the "master of the new generation".

In comments published by French newspaper Le Parisien, Pele hailed Bolt as the best athlete in the history of the Olympic Games. He also joked that that title could have been his had he been involved in sports other than football.

Tomorrow's opening ceremony will be modest compared to London 2012's alternately humorous and jaw-droppingly sophisticated version, according to co-artistic chief Fernando Meirelles, who directed the hit movies City Of God and The Constant Gardener.

But organisers promise to keep the more than 70,000-strong crowd at the Maracana and the estimated three billion people watching on television entertained.

If Beijing 2008 was ostentatiously lavish and London quirky, Rio will try to capture Brazil's amazing diversity, love of music and fun.

"We want to have the biggest party there has ever been in this country," co-artistic director Daniela Thomas says.

Along with thousands of athletes parading behind their national flags and a contingent of refugees, there will be hundreds of performers from a dozen local samba schools singing and dancing in wild costumes.

Two Brazilian popular music icons, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, will feature. On the more contemporary side, there will be rappers and baile funk star Anitta.

Leaks from a closed-door dress rehearsal on Sunday promise a run through the transformation of Brazil.

This includes a light show recreating the Atlantic Ocean crossed by Portuguese colonisers, depictions of slavery, a recreation of aviator Santos Dumont's flight in the plane 14-Bis and the founding of cities.

Another heavyweight theme in the show, which will last roughly four hours, will be global warming and Brazil's crucial role as home to the Amazon rainforest.

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who retired from the catwalk last year, and pioneering transgender model Lea T will provide the glamour.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Pele held back in bid to ring in the Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe