Three-time World Cup champion Pele says he was invited to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, but sponsorship deals could stop him from performing the prestigious task.
Speaking at an event in Rio, Pele said he was invited to light the cauldron by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Rio 2016 organizing committee chairman Carlos Arthur Nuzman.
Philip Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Rio 2016 organizing committee, did not confirm the information, saying the identity of the person lighting the cauldron was supposed to be a surprise.
Pele, 75, said he has a commitment to a sponsor that would make him travel on Friday, the day of the Opening Ceremony. The Brazilian said Nuzman invited him in person and Bach called him to do the same.
“I need to solve the travel issue. It is an international commitment with an English company. But I would love to (light the cauldron),” Pele said. “If I manage to change (the travel plans), I would like to have the honor to light it.”
Almost two weeks ago Pele held the Olympic flame in Santos, the city in the outskirts of Sao Paulo where he started his football career. He never took part in the Games.
In 2004, Pele carried the Athens Games torch in Rio and wept as he did it. At the time, he said that one of the few regrets of his successful career was to never have played at the Olympic Games.
Brazilian media reported in recent weeks that three retirees were the favorites to light the cauldron at the Maracana stadium on Friday: Pele, sailor Torben Grael and tennis player Gustavo Kuerten.
Grael carried the flame on Wednesday. Kuerten refused to do it because of sponsorship deals.