Pele has pulled out of lighting the cauldron at the Olympics opening ceremony just hours before it begins.pepeBrazil’s best-known sportsman released a statement saying ill-health would prevent him from participating, leaving organisers scrambling for a replacement.

“I’m not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics,” said the former footballer, who has suffered from kidney and hip problems in recent years. “Only God is more important than my health.”

The three-hour ceremony has a budget of just £3m, a tenth of that spent for London 2012, as the country is currently in recession. Millions of people around the world are expected to tune in – with proceedings starting in the Maracana stadium at midnight UK time.