Ailing ex-president Fidel Castro marked his 82nd birthday in private on Wednesday, more than two years after he underwent emergency surgery and ceded power to his younger brother Raul.

There were no official celebrations planned, although Cuban workers and other groups sent the revolutionary leader greetings in state media and a group of Santeria priests planned a drum ceremony in his honor.

Cuban Olympic athletes saluted Castro from Beijing, calling him the "team coach, greatest home run hitter and unconquerable gladiator."

Castro's friend and ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sent him a portrait of South American Independence hero Simon Bolivar.

The bearded revolutionary has not appeared in public since July 2006. He permanently resigned the presidency in February, ending nearly a half-century in power.