Football Legend Pele Should Light Rio Olympic Pyre, Right? Not So Fast

Pele, perhaps the most famous Brazilian who is known for his greatness on the football field, was asked to hold the torch and light the cauldron in the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It’s an offer that he could not refuse, right?

Pele, 75, did confirm that he was indeed requested to hold the distinct honor of holding the Olympic torch. He would be joining a very short list of legends who lit the cauldron to signal the start of the summer games.

Among the few names in the list are Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Paralympian Antonio Rebollo, Chinese gymnast Li Ning, and members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team.

However, he’s not sure whether to accept the offer.

“I have contracts and I am supposed to be travelling,” he said. “If I manage to cancel the commitments I have, I would like to have the honor of doing it but I cannot yet confirm whether I will be here to light the flame.”

He also said that he needs to solve first his commitments with an English company. But he would love to take the honor of lighting the cauldron “if I manage to change (the travel schedule).”

Pele, whose real name Edson Arondes do Nascimento, is widely recognized as the greatest player to have ever graced the football field. He was instrumental in giving Brazil three World Cup titles. At age 17, he was thrust into the limelight for his performance during the 1958 World Cup championships in Sweden.

In a display of clutch and heart, he scored three goals to win over France and then two more goals in the finals against Sweden to win 5-2.

If indeed he accepts the offer to light the cauldron, Pele would be returning to familiar grounds, as the opening ceremony will be held in the same stadium where he scored his 1,000th goal. It will also be a huge honor after the football great confessed that his one greatest regret was that he never participated in the Olympics.

The confession of Pele is very surprising considering that the identity of the Olympic torch bearer was a closely-guarded secret. Philip Wilkinson, Rio Olympics 2016 organizing committee spokesperson, told ABC News that they had no idea about Pele being asked to light the cauldron. The football legend had alleged that he was invited by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Back and the organizing committee’s own chair, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, for the distinction.

Wilkinson reiterated that the final result of the selection should have been a surprise.

The ABC News article also noted the reports filtering from the Brazilian press about Pele being just one of the three names under consideration to light the cauldron. The other two are tennis player Gustavo Kuerten, who already declined due to his sponsorship commitments, and Torben Grael, who already carried the torch on Wednesday.

According to the Mirror, an American company holds the rights to Pele’s name. If all goes according to plan, the 75-year-old would light the cauldron while dame Judy Dench reads a poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Retired supermodel Gisele Bundchen, the wife of NFL player Tom Brady, is also set to make an appearance during the opening ceremonies.

The presence of Pele in the Rio Olympics 2016 opening ceremonies would be the highlight of what promises to be a night to remember. According to the British tabloid, some of the planned spectacles will reference the colonial history of Brazil.

[Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images]