Coates retains Australian Olympic Committee presidency

Photo: Shawn Carpenter/Flickr

Photo: Shawn Carpenter/Flickr


By Mads A. Wickstrøm
John Coates has been re-elected as president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and is now facing the task of uniting the AOC and bring about sought after change.

On May 6 John Coates was re-elected as AOC president, allowing him to continue his 27-year tenure in the Olympic Movement. He won by a comfortable margin (58-35), to beat his challenger Danni Roche at the AOC’s general meeting in Sydney. The vote was held following a grim election campaign which – Coates admitted, had damaged the AOC brand, according to The Guardian. However, he insisted the damages can be easily remedied:

“Things are said and done in an election campaign ... my position is that we just move on, I’m not going back over what happened in this campaign,” Coates said.

“I'm hoping that the Olympic membership, having experienced this, will come together,” he added, according to Sky News.

John Coates is under pressure to bring about changes to the AOC, including an overhaul of the organisational culture and governance as well as a review, instigated by Danny Roche, of the $700.000 a-year AOC presidential salary.

Roche campaigned on the need for cultural reform due to allegations of threats and bullying within the AOC. According to information obtained by The Guardian, Roche’s proposed cultural reforms would include corporate governance measures, limited terms for directors, more transparency for nominations and accreditations, as well as a cultural review conducted by an external body.

However, Coates has repeatedly called attention to his skills in managing the AOC’s finances. Since 2001 the organisation’s net assets have grown from $109 million to $148 million, while money has been pumped back into development of sports, according to Coates himself. As such, Coates has positioned himself as a reliable, proven and experienced leader.  

Following the vote in Sydney, Danny Roche said that despite the result of the ballot, a strong desire for change remain across Olympic sporting organisations.

“We have started a much-needed conversation about the future of Australian sport, and the responsibility the Australian Olympic committee has in supporting its member sports and athletes,” Roche said.

“There is certainly a strong desire for change. There is a desire for the AOC to place a greater focus on providing for their sports and athletes and for it to have a more collaborative relationship with the national federations and the Australian sports commission,” Roche explained, according to The Guardian.

Chairman of the Australian Athletes Commission, Steve Hooker congratulated Coates’ victory although he said that the support from the Athletes Commission was conditional:

“In our conversations with John, he understands that things have to change,” Hooker said.

“There has to be some bridges that are repaired. And he has expressed to us personally that he is going to do that,” he added.

“We are going to hold him to account,” Hooker expressed, according to French news site France 24.

John Coates has declared that his tenure will come to an end after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he will step down as president of the AOC.


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