Australian Olympic Committee supremo John Coates steps down after 32 years | More sports news



MELBOURNE (Reuters) – One of sport’s most enduring tenures ended on Saturday when John Coates resigned as chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee after a 32-year reign that secured his nation two Games and left a string of trampled opponents in its wake.
Questionable hips kept the 71-year-old from appearing at the AOC’s annual general meeting in Sydney, and he choked with emotion at the end of his final presidential speech while thanking Australians for the chance to live his dreams.
Yet in every other way, Coates was in the driver’s seat, basking in the warmth of a room full of sports officials who took advantage of his power and influence on the world stage.
Among them was the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, who sat next to his right arm and beamed as Coates detailed the measurements for the Tokyo Games in 2020.
As Bach’s spokesperson for Tokyo, Coates played a key role in Japan’s progress towards the Games after they were postponed for a year due to COVID-19.
“We did something together that had never been done before – and frankly, something a lot of people didn’t believe they could pull off,” Bach told Coates.
Ian Chesterman succeeds Coates as AOC president after defeating a rival candidate.
But Coates will remain a powerful broker at home and abroad.
His vice-presidency of the IOC lasts until the 2024 Paris Games, and he remains on the boards of the AOC executive and the organizing committee for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.
Having played an indelible role in securing 2032, few sports-mad Australians would blame him.
Coates effectively rewrote the IOC’s bid evaluation process, paving the way for Brisbane’s rapid evolution to become the preferred candidate.
As Bach noted in a glowing tribute, Coates is the only National Olympic Committee chairman to host two Games in his country, having also helped Sydney win the 2000 event.
The guest list at Coates’ final chairman’s dinner in Sydney on Saturday included sports greats, business heavyweights and a former prime minister among a host of politicians.
Still, Coates’ detractors over the years could have filled many tables.
Although virtually unchallenged in the AOC, Advocate Coates proved a polarizing figure and his fierce protection of his turf and benefits rubbed many the wrong way.
He was embroiled in several scandals early in his presidency and offered 100,000 Australian dollars ($70,600) in sports scholarships to African IOC delegates ahead of the vote for Sydney.
His negotiation has served himself and the AOC as well as Australian athletes.
He extracted some A$88 million from the government after the Sydney Games to bolster a fund to support Olympic athletes and cover the costs of the AOC, which included his generous “consulting fees”.
The fund has grown to A$180 million despite distributions of more than A$130 million to athletes over the past 20 years.
Coates’ determination to protect the independence of the AOC and his role at its helm has led to clashes, less bitter than his 2017 feud with John Wylie, former head of the government’s sports funding agency.
Allegations of bullying at the AOC that same year sparked a cultural review that revealed leadership issues.
But Coates weathered the storm and easily fended off a 2017 challenge to serve his presidency for another five years.
AOC has evolved over this period, with a greater focus on women, diversity and Indigenous athletes, but Coates has remained firm in its ways, working the angles on the world stage to deliver Tokyo and land in Brisbane , his last legacy to Australia.
He signed on Saturday with a familiar plea to protect the AOC’s “independence” from political interference.
“It’s our independent pursuit of Olympic ideals that allows us to do what we do so well,” he said. “To help Australians pursue their dreams.”


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