Coates’ IOC vice pres­i­dency on the line in Aus­tralian vote

New Straits Times - - Sport - DANNI ROCHE

SYD­NEY: The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee could lose one of their most in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cials when vice pres­i­dent John Coates faces the first chal­lenge in al­most three decades to his lead­er­ship in Aus­tralia.

Coates, who has been pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Olympic Com­mit­tee for 27 years and who heads the IOC’s co­or­di­na­tion com­mis­sion for the 2020 Tokyo Games, is up for election against Danni Roche in a se­cret bal­lot at the AOC’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing on Satur­day in Syd­ney.

Danni, a 1996 Olympic field hockey gold medal­list, has of­fered to work for free and promised to di­rect more funding to ath­letes. Her pledge comes dur­ing an of­ten ac­ri­mo­nious cam­paign which has brought up di­vi­sions within the Aus­tralian Olympic com­mu­nity.

The IOC have said Coates would lose his se­nior in­ter­na­tional po­si­tions un­der cur­rent reg­u­la­tions if he does not re­tain the Aus­tralian role.

Yes­ter­day, Coates and Danni used the coun­try’s lead­ing busi­ness news­pa­per — the Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view — to pro­mote their causes.

Coates said the sound fi­nan­cial po­si­tion of the AOC, and his strong lead­er­ship of it, make him the can­di­date best suited to the job.

“We are wel­come at the high­est lev­els of in­ter­na­tional de­lib­er­a­tions,” Coates wrote in a col­umn. “We speak with author­ity on Olympic bids and se­lec­tion pro­cesses, on gen­der equal­ity, on pro­tect­ing clean ath­letes, on mod­els for re­duc­ing the cost of Olympic venues and on re­la­tion­ships with spon­sors and the me­dia.

“And when the time comes for Aus­tralia to again step for­ward and ask to be con­sid­ered to host the great­est event on earth, our con­fi­dence, ex­per­tise and wis­dom will hold us in good stead.”

Aus­tralia has twice hosted the Sum­mer Games — in 1956 in Mel­bourne and at Syd­ney in 2000, which then-IOC pres­i­dent Juan Antonio Sa­ma­ranch called “the best Olympic Games ever.”

But Coates’ lead­er­ship has been ques­tioned in re­cent weeks amid ac­cu­sa­tions of bul­ly­ing within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. His long­time me­dia di­rec­tor, Mike Tan­cred, stood down from his du­ties pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Tan­cred has de­nied the bul­ly­ing al­le­ga­tions made by for­mer AOC chief ex­ec­u­tive Fiona de Jong, but said last week he would step aside un­til the mat­ter was re­solved.

To add to the con­tro­versy, Coates has feuded over the past year with Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion chair­man John Wylie over gov­ern­ment funding. In Fe­bru­ary, Coates was quoted by Fair­fax Me­dia as using a crude vul­gar­ity to re­fer to Wylie after re­fus­ing to shake hands at a track and field meet.

The Coates-Danni vote has di­vided high-pro­file for­mer ath­letes and of­fi­cials. Among those, beach vol­ley­ball gold medal­list Natalie Cook has gone on record as sup­port­ing Coates, while 1983 Amer­ica’s Cup­win­ning yachts­man John Ber­trand, now head of Swim­ming Aus­tralia, said Danni de­served a shot at the pres­i­dency.

In her pub­lished cam­paign plat­form, Danni said she will forgo Coates’ yearly re­mu­ner­a­tion of A$750,000 (RM2.54 mil­lion) and will pro­pose a A$100,000 salary pack­age for the pres­i­dent — which she would waive for the en­tirety of her term — to il­lus­trate her com­mit­ment to the funding of ath­letes.

“When sports can’t in­vest in their fu­ture, the risk of los­ing ta­lented ath­letes to an­other sport, or to sport al­to­gether, is real,” she wrote yes­ter­day.

Danni is up­set that she will not be al­lowed to ad­dress Satur­day’s meet­ing, al­though Coates will do so while pre­sent­ing his an­nual re­port.

Danni’s sup­port­ers have also com­plained that the IOC is­sued a let­ter to Coates say­ing any loss of Coates’ pres­i­dency in Aus­tralia would see him be re­moved from his IOC du­ties, even if he was given an hon­orary pres­i­dency.

Sup­port­ers for Danni have com­plained that the re­lease of that in­for­ma­tion could have an im­pact on the election, sug­gest­ing that Coates’ loss in the election could re­duce Aus­tralia’s sta­tus on the in­ter­na­tional Olympic stage.

The idea of the IOC amend­ing their own rules in the fu­ture to ac­com­mo­date Coates in his in­ter­na­tional po­si­tions hasn’t been com­pletely ruled out. AP

When sports can’t in­vest in their fu­ture, the risk of los­ing ta­lented ath­letes to an­other sport, or to sport al­to­gether, is real.

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