Olympics Boss John Coates Slams ‘Not Competent’ Former CEO, Then Receives Unexpected Support

Embattled Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates
has given a defiant performance on ABC TV’s 7.30, in
which he said “it’s the fact” that former CEO Fiona de Jong was
not competent.

Coates is up for re-election on Saturday after 27 years in the
AOC’s top job, and is under siege from businesswoman, sports
administrator and Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medallist Danni

The 66-year-old former lawyer has also been dogged in recent
weeks by allegations of a toxic culture inside the AOC’s
offices. Allegations of bullying by his long-serving
media chief Mike Tancred surfaced two weeks ago
, and
Tancred has been stood down while an investigation takes place.

Those bullying allegations came from former AOC CEO Fiona de
Jong, and Coates was ruthless in his assessment of de Jong on
7.30. Among other things, he said:

“The last CEO I gave the opportunity. I sent her to Harvard.
We gave her every opportunity. She came back, she didn’t step
up and I took back the responsibilities.”

He also said:

“I’ve been a President and executive President, and’s because
I did haven’t faith in the CEOs. I gave the last one every
opportunity to step up, it didn’t happen.”

And in response to a Leigh Sales question asking it was a bold
accusation to say he hadn’t had a competent CEO the whole time
he’d been president, he said:

“Yeah, it’s, well, it’s the fact.”

For a man accustomed to taking diplomatic footsteps, these are
uncharacteristically harsh words. But these are unusual times
for Coates, whose position has never been threatened before in
his 27-year tenure as president.

His fate now rests on the secret ballot on Saturday, at which
93 votes will be cast — 80 by representatives of the bodies
governing the 40 current winter and summer Olympic sports (two
each) — and another 13 by the AOC executive.

Coates would be buoyed by support he has just received from the
AOC Athletes’ Commission in a statement released on Thursday
evening, although the support was fairly conditional, and
appeared to be voiced through gritted teeth.

The first part of the statement read:

“Danni’s platform has raised a number of issues that we, as
an Athletes’ Commission, and the broader athlete population,
have passionate views on.

The overwhelming response from the athlete population and
alumni was that there is a desire for change. Opinions
differed as to how this change should best be achieved.

The Commission had a long and vibrant discussion, airing a
range of views and sharing feedback from athletes, alumni and
National Federation Athletes’ Commissions.

In a non-unanimous majority decision, the Commission voted to
support the re-election of John Coates.”

The last bit read thus:

The Athletes’ Commission supports a planned and strategic
transition of John Coates out of the Presidency. Any
succession plan should aim to cultivate a number of
candidates who the sports can vote on at a future AGM. This
succession plan should involve John Coates sharing his
knowledge and mentoring the next generation of leaders within
the Australian Olympic family.

So in other words, better the devil you know. And John Coates
had better clean things up in what looks certain to be his
final three years, should he be elected.

Meanwhile Coates’ challenger Danni Roche released an
impassioned blog on Thursday afternoon. It read:

“On Saturday, there is an opportunity to reset the
dysfunctional relationship that currently exists between the
AOC and Australia’s primary sports funding body.

If elected president, my approach will be collaborative
rather than confrontational, for the benefit of our sports
and our athletes.

I believe the AOC can deliver more for sports and athletes by
working with Australia’s peak sporting bodies, while
remaining fiercely independent.

This approach will extend to all Australia’s peak sporting
bodies including the Australian Paralympic Committee, the
Australian Commonwealth Games Association, the Athletes’
Commission and the Australian Institute of Sport.

We know that the prime of an elite athlete’s career is so
short that we can’t afford to put even one athletes chance at
success in jeopardy because the peak bodies can’t work

I have proposed working group comprising Olympians from each
of the AOC and ASC Boards — supported by four rotating
advisers from the National Federations — to assist with
increasing participation, supporting high performance
athletes and developing a joint approach to increased funding
for all Olympic sports.

I would invite the Athletes’ Commission, the Australian
Paralympic Committee and the Australian Commonwealth Games
Association to join that working group.

Additionally, the opportunity to convene a series bi-annual
of President’s forums in all capital cities on a regular
basis to encourage a collaborative and collegiate
relationship between our National Federations and the AOC.

My commitment is to work with the Board of the Australian
Olympic Committee to bring in a new era of collaboration in
Australian sport, to ensure our athletes have every
opportunity to reach their full potential.

As a demonstration of my commitment to the autonomy of the
AOC, I have taken leave from my role on the Board of the ASC
and will resign immediately should I be elected President of
the AOC.”

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Olympics Boss John Coates Slams ‘Not Competent’ Former CEO, Then Receives Unexpected Support

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