RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Brazil football legend Pele said poor health will prevent him from lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremony on Friday (Aug 5) as he had hoped to do.
“Dear friends, only God is more important than my health!” the 75-year-old said in a statement published by Brazilian media.
“Right now I am not in physical condition to take part in the opening of the Olympics.”
Pele said on Wednesday that the International Olympic Committee had asked him to carry the torch to the cauldron in Rio’s Maracana stadium at Friday night’s ceremony.
He first said scheduling commitments for his sponsors had to be resolved before he could confirm whether he would light the cauldron.
Pele has for years been a celebrity face of credit company MasterCard. One of MasterCard’s top competitors, Visa, sponsors the Olympic Games.
His spokesman Jose Fornos Rodrigues told AFP on Thursday that the scheduling obstacle had been removed but doubts remained about his health.
Pele has undergone several hip operations and walks with a cane.
“In my life I have had fractures, operations, pain, hospitalizations, victories and defeats, but I have always respected those who admire me,” he said in the statement.
“I take responsibility for my decisions. I have always sought not to disappoint my family or the Brazilian people.”
The spokesman said on Thursday that Pele had “muscle pain which is affecting his mobility.” Pele – real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento – is widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time.
He won three World Cups with Brazil but never competed at the Olympics.