POSTED: July 8th 2009

World Cup king Pele scores for Rio 2016 at ANOCA assembly

Pele: vision for Rio - and Africa / lake images
Pele: vision for Rio - and Africa / lake images

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

ABUJA: Pele, who has always championed Africa’s sporting cause, opened up the prospect of the Olympics one day coming to the continent when he spearheaded Rio de Janeiro’s campaign in Abuja.

Football’s triple World Cup-winner was the charismatic ambassador speaking up for the Brazilian city when its bid team addressed delegates at the ANOCA general assembly in Abuja, Nigeria.

Pelé opened by recalling visit to Nigeria as a player with his only Brazilian club, Santos, more than 32 years ago. He said: “Some of you probably weren’t even born in 1967, when I was in Nigeria for the first time. I remember the welcome we had was amazing and it is a great honor to be back.

“Since then, I have followed the impressive development of sport in Africa, especially in athletics and football.”

The one competition in which Pele never played was the Olympic Games since the football tournament was closed to openly professional players during his career years – when it was dominated by the so-called ‘state amateurs’ of eastern Europe.

Torch opportunity

He added: “In my career, I’ve had many happy moments, but never the opportunity to compete in the Olympics and in 2004 I felt some of this emotion when I participated in the torch relay through the streets of Rio. I hope that wasn’t the last time I will carry the flame and that we can be together in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.”

If the IOC decided thus to extend the reach of the Olympics, he suggested, there was then no reason why the Games should not one day take place in Africa. The vote for the 2016 host takes place in Copenhagen in October; Rio is competing with Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.

The Rio bid delegation included Brazil’s sports minister, Orlando Silva, Rio 2016 president Carlos Arthur Nuzman, secretary general Carlos Roberto Osório and Olympic athletics medal-winner Robson Caetano.

Nuzman reminded delegates of the ties between Brazil and Africa and the strengths of the bid such as technical excellence, the chance to transform the city and nation and host the first South American Games – thus providing a unique experience for the Olympic Movement.

He added: “The Olympic flame is most brilliant when it brings people together and marks new chapters in history. In the 21st century, the Olympic Movement must embrace new sports, new technologies . . . and new people.”

Keywords · Pele · Rio 2016 · Olympic Games · IOC · ANOCA · Abuja · Nigeria · Nuzman

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.