Rio 2016 ambassador Pele eyes 'fourth World Cup' | other | Hindustan Times
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Rio 2016 ambassador Pele eyes 'fourth World Cup'

other Updated: Sep 30, 2009 22:53 IST

Soccer legend Pele told AFP in Copenhagen on Wednesday that if the IOC votes to give the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro it would be like winning a fourth World Cup for him.

Pele arrived in Copenhagen on Tuesday in his role as ambassador to Rio's Olympic bid and as ambassadors go they don't come more highly decorated than the man chosen by the IOC as their top athlete of the last century.

Yet despite the 68-year-old's World Cup triumphs in 1958, 1962 and 1970, he says he has one deep regret in his life - no Olympic medal.

"A lot of Brazilians know my dream was always to win an Olympics. I've won a lot of tournaments and scored more than 1,000 goals and won three World Cups but I could never play in the Olympics as I was a professional.

"I signed my first professional contract with Santos as a 15-year-old and at that time professional footballers could not play in the Olympics.

"Every Olympic Games Brazil went to play but never won a gold medal I thought to myself 'oh my god, if only I was there to help for sure we would have won a gold medal...
"That was my only regret.

"So maybe when the 2016 Olympics come to Rio I'll finally get a chance to play and put that right!"

He added: "If Rio do win the IOC vote on Friday for me it will be similar to winning a fourth World Cup."

Edison Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele as he is universally known, believes now is the moment to bring the Games to South America for the first time.

"I respect the other candidate cities (Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo), but the important thing is South America has never staged an Olympics.

"I think it is the right moment. It would be a great triumph for Brazil, and for me as a Brazilian it's important that I work to achieve that."

At a press conference earlier on Wednesday Pele was asked to explain the importance of helping Brazil get the Games.

"If I have to die for my country I will die for my country, it's important to help when your country needs you.

"I'm not here just for Brazil but for the whole of South America. Sport has changed the life of a lot of people and children.

"Everything I have today I got through sport - I travelled all over the world with football, no university or school could have given me the opportunity to know different people and different cultures."

Pele is by no means the only Brazilian sporting hero in Copenhagen to sound the drum for Rio.

Cesar Cielo, gold medal winner at the 2008 Beijing Games and world record holder and double world champion, says like Pele he has a dream.

Introducing himself as "the one who was always crying on the podium in Beijing", Cielo said: "I'm really proud of everything I've achieved but I've got this dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in my country in 2016.

"The Olympics have changed my life, I can only imagine what staging the Olympics in Rio would represent for all of South America - it can change the history of the continent's and Brazilian sport."

Daniel Dias, who collected seven medals including three gold at the Beijing Paralympics, added: "I'm going to train for Rio and hope to win gold too."

Janeth Arcain, a former women's NBA star with the Houston Comets added for her part: "I've competed in four Olympic Gamees and have won two medals and I know what it feels like.

"I work with kids now in Brazil and they look at me and say 'I want to be like you Janet and win Olympic medals.'

"If Brazil win the 2016 games this is going to be huge for Rio - it will leave a legacy for the rest of our lives."

Brazil's first ever female sailing medalist Isabel Swan, who will be helping to make the final presentation in front of the IOC in 48 hours time, echoed those sentiments.

"Sport opens the minds of children - it inspires people," she said.

"The 2016 Games will help sport in our country and save many children in Brazil."