Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Will Pele’ light the Olympic flame?

in Sports by

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics have yet to begin officially, but already there is drama. Who will ultimately light the caldron at tonight’s opening ceremony that will symbolically open the games?

An obvious choice is soccer legend Pele’, but that is not for certain. He would be the obvious choice, but this is not a certainty.

First, it was revealed he might not be able to participate due another scheduled engagement. This seems a bit far-fetched to believe one of the most famous Brazilians ever would not be available. His countrymen and women would expect him to be there.

If his schedule is rearranged, the 75-year-old Pele’ is also dealing with a health matter. Following a hip replacement in December, he now gets around only with the help of a cane.

In a sign that the soccer legend will likely stand before the caldron with torch in hand, his doctors cleared him to light the torch.

Pele is, without question, Brazil’s most famous athlete. If he indeed lights the flame, the roar coming from the crowd would rival the moment when the late Muhammad Ali emerged to launch the 1996 Atlanta Olympics officially.

Part of the showmanship involved in this ceremony is the anticipation over who receives such an honor. The choice of Ali was kept a secret, adding the surprise factor.

The potential for an Olympic moment that spans generations is possible on Friday night. Twenty years after Ali lit the flame with trembling hands, we have the possibility of Pele’ standing there with cane in one hand and torch in another.

Most any sports fan from the last three decades of the 20th century knew his name. He was soccer and deserves some credit for the sport’s rise in the United States.

Though on the downside of his career, he was the biggest star in the newly-formed North American Soccer League. The Tampa Bay Rowdies won the inaugural NASL title in 1975 and had two memorable playoff games against Pele’s New York Cosmos the following two years.

The Rowdies beat Pele’ and his teammates to advance to their second consecutive Soccer Bowl in 1976. In his final NASL season, Pele’ and the Cosmos beat the Rowdies in the first round on their way to the 1977 title.

Interest in the sport began to grow. Today the U.S. men’s team is routinely among the top five to 10 in the world and the women’s team is always a favorite to win the World Cup or the Olympic Gold Medal.

Brazil’s brightest sports star needs to be next to the Olympic caldron later tonight. Let’s hope the uncertainty is merely the best tool to build an audience.

 

Latest from Sports

Go to Top