Ill health forces Pele out of Olympics opening ceremony | News | DW | 05.08.2016
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Ill health forces Pele out of Olympics opening ceremony

Brazilian football legend Pele says he won't be able to light the Olympic cauldron Friday because of mobility issues. His appearance was to be a key part of the opening of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"Dear friends, only God is more important than my health!" the 75-year-old said in a statement Friday published by Brazilian media.

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"Right now I am not in physical condition to take part in the opening of the Olympics."

Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, underwent hip surgery at the end of last year and his rehabilitation has been difficult.

"The muscles in his leg that is being rehabilitated are not sufficiently strong enough," spokesman Pepito Fornos told the Reuters news agency.

"He is walking with a cane. 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."

Health or legal hurdle?

The announcement came just two days after it was revealed the soccer legend had been asked to carry the torch to the cauldron in Rio's Maracana stadium during Friday night's ceremony.

Olympics opening ceremony rehearsal

A rehearsal of the opening ceremony was held Thursday

But the former striker said he needed to consult some commercial sponsors on whether he would be able to carry out the duties contractually.

Pele has for years been a celebrity face of credit company MasterCard. One of MasterCard's top competitors, Visa, sponsors the Olympic Games.

Another spokesman Jose Fornos Rodrigues told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the sponsorship obstacle had been removed but doubts remained about his health.

Pele is widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. He won three World Cups with Brazil but never competed at the Olympics.

Rio 2016 organizers have kept light-tipped about the details of Friday's opening ceremony, which begins at 8pm local time (23:00 UTC).

mm/kl (AFP, Reuters)

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