One of the big questions in the days and hours leading up to the official beginning of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was what role Brazilian legend Pele would have in the Opening Ceremony. Given his list of accomplishments, both individually and as a member of three World Cup-winning teams in Brazil (1958, 1962 and 1970), it would only be right to have Edson Arantes do Nascimento in attendance, if not lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Maracanã Stadium Friday night.
Unfortunately Pele will not be in attendance, as health issues have forced him to remain home. Pele made the announcement via press release Friday afternoon.
“Only God is more important than my health,” Pele said in the release. “In my life, I’ve had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I’ve always respected those who admire me.”
Pele underwent hip replacement surgery in 2012, and there was a surgical procedure performed on his prostate last May. In January Pele underwent surgery in New York City to repair the replacement hip, stating three months later that he was informed by the doctors of an error made in the original procedure.
“According to the doctors who examined me, there was a medical error. An error in the technique of the Brazilian doctors,” Pele said in April.
Pele did hold the Olympic Torch in his native Santos on July 22 at the Pele Museum, so he’s been involved in the process of getting the flame to the Maracanã. With Pele now officially unable to attend the Opening Ceremony, the question of who will light the Olympic cauldron remains a point of speculation.