Pele has written to the Rio organizing committee to say he will be unable to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony because of his physical frailty.
Reports also suggest that he will not be able to attend the ceremony at all due to his poor health.
In a statement he apologized to those who might be disappointed by his absence, and added: “As a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all who participate in this event.”
He explained: “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.”
Pele had hip surgery at the turn of the year following a replacement in 2012 and has had several other health issues since. He spent two weeks in hospital for a urinary infection in 2014 and last May had prostate surgery.