SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's failure to claim an Olympic soccer gold medal, the one major tournament they have never won, is all because Pele never played in the competition, the soccer great joked on Thursday.

Pele made his comments after receiving an Olympic award in his home town of Santos, pointing out that although Brazil had won the World Cup five times and the Copa America on eight occasions, they never won Olympic gold because he was absent.

"I was joking with my friends saying that Brazil never won an award, because I never played," the 75-year-old three-time World Cup winner told reporters.

"I joke with my friends, because we really never had a title and this was a chance God gave to me in receiving this honor. Let's hope and think positively, that maybe we can take an Olympic title, and once again, for all those who have been part of my story."

Pele was given the Olympic order, the highest award offered by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), by its president Thomas Bach.

Bach is in Brazil to monitor preparations for South America's first Olympic Games that begin in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by John O'Brien)