Cordeiro is an ex-marathon runner from Brazil who was chosen to be the final torch bearer at the 2016 Olympics. He replaced soccer legend Pele, who was forced to pull out at the last minute due to health problems. At the Maracanã Stadium, Cordeiro took the torch from Hortencia Marcari, women’s basketball silver medalist and world champion, before climbing the stairs to set the symbolic cauldron alight to the sound of the audience’s roar of support behind him.
Cordeiro won the bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens for the marathon race. He was leading the race and had the gold in his sights when suddenly his chance was disrupted by an intruder, later identified as Cornelius ‘Neil’ Horan, who ran out into his path and grabbed the runner, bringing him to a halt. Despite the incident, Cordeiro managed to free himself and run on, yet the moment was lost and he was overtaken by Stefano Baldini from Italy and Meb Keflezighi from the USA.
Although he couldn’t claim the victory, Cordeiro crossed the finish line in third place smiling and dancing. His positive spirit in the face of such circumstances won over a huge international audience, and at the end of the 2004 Olympics he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.
It was for these reasons that Cordeiro was selected to replace Pele and given the opportunity to finally take the glory that he deserves. His positive reaction to what would be a devastating situation to many athletes was admirable and inspiring, and 12 years later he took the stage to begin the greatest sporting event of the year.