Pelé will play no part in the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images

Football legend Pelé has pulled-out of lighting the Olympic Cauldron at this evening's Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony due to his poor health.

This is a major surprise considering the three-time World Cup winner, surely Brazil's most recognisable person worldwide, had been heavy favourite to carry-out the lighting duties.

The 75-year-old had been walking with aid of a stick after hip surgery, and has also been suffering from muscle pains.

He emphasised that it was purely his own decision to withdraw.

"I'm not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics at the famous Maracanã Stadium," he said in a statement.

"Only God is more important than my health. 

"In my life, I've had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. 

"And I've always respected those who admire me. 

"As a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all those who participate in this event."

Pelé is widely considered the greatest footballer of all time ©Getty Images
Pelé is widely considered the greatest footballer of all time ©Getty Images

This comes barely a month after Pelé was awarded an Olympic Order by the International Olympic Committee for services to sport.

His spokesman Pepito Fornos added: "He is walking with a cane. 

"The problem is that if he sits in a chair you need a winch to get him out of it.

"His doctor thought it best that he continues physiotherapy, that he rests and we hope that he will be able to appear at the [Olympic] Closing Ceremony."

A mystery now surrounds who will light the Flame, or if Rio will follow the London 2012 model of having a group of lighters.

More follows