Rio de Janeiro, Aug 5 (IANS) Ill health will prevent Pele from participating in the Olympic opening ceremony, the football legend said just hours before the show was due to begin on Friday.
Pele, 75, was widely expected to light the Olympic cauldron at the end of the four-hour ceremony at Rio’s Maracana stadium, due to start at 8 p.m. local time, reports Xinhua.
“My dear friends, only God is more important than my health,” Pele said in a statement. “In my life I have had fractures, surgeries, pains, hospital stays, victories and defeats, always respecting those who admire me. I am responsible for my decisions and I have always tried not to disappoint by family and the Brazilian people.
“At this moment I’m not physically well enough to participate in the Olympic opening ceremony. As a Brazilian, I ask good to bless all of those who will participate in this event so that it can be a great success and end in peace.”
Pele has suffered a series of health concerns in recent years, including hip problems, kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
The three-time World Cup winner is regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time.
Following tradition, the identity of the person chosen to light Rio’s Olympic cauldron has been kept secret by the organisers.