Soccer Legend Pele Won't Light Olympic Cauldron, Cites Health | NECN
2016 Rio Olympic Games

2016 Rio Olympic Games

Watch All the Action from the Rio Games Live on NBC

Soccer Legend Pele Won't Light Olympic Cauldron, Cites Health

Pele apologized for disappointing Brazilians



    Getty Images

    Pele says his poor health will keep him from lighting the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics.

    In a statement on Friday, the 75-year-old soccer great says "I'm not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics." 

    Pele's role in the opening ceremony has never been clear. He had said earlier that a commitment to a sponsor would force him to travel the day of the ceremony.

    "If I manage to change (the travel plans), I would like to have the honor to light it," he said.

    Friday's opening ceremony will need to fill a void without Brazil's most famous athlete. He had hip surgery several years ago and often walks with the help of a cane.

    In his statement, Pele says: "Only God is more important than my health. In my life, I've had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I've always respected those who admire me."

    He says pulling out was "my own decision."

    His absence — in any role — will be a huge disappointment to fans and organizers.

    Pele apologized for disappointing Brazilians and says "as a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all who participate in this event."

    He signed the statement Edson Arantes do Nascimento — Pele.

    The cauldron was designed by American sculptor Anthony Howe, who told The Associated Press he was inspired by life in the tropics. There will be two cauldrons in Rio, one at the Maracana soccer stadium that is hosting the opening ceremony and another open to the public in downtown Rio.

    The cauldron in central Rio is expected to be lit by a runner after the opening ceremony is finished, Howe said.