Australia’s Olympic emperor John Coates stands down as new era for AOC looms

Home Sports Australia’s Olympic emperor John Coates stands down as new era for AOC looms
Australia’s Olympic emperor John Coates stands down as new era for AOC looms

For 32 years, no Australian has had more influence in the international sporting arena than John Coates.

Today, his reign as Olympic chief is over.

He is stepping down as Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president, although it is expected he will still wield significant power from the sidelines.

He remains an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and the vice-president until the Paris 2024 Games. He will also retain a seat on the board of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Organising Committee, and is the president of the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

John Coates sits in front of a Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo sign at a media conference.
John Coates has worn many hats throughout his career.(ABC News)

While many will miss his unrivalled political and strategic nous, others who have fallen foul of his sometimes caustic approach will be hoping for a softer touch.

Whether those who follow in his footsteps will be able to keep Australia inside the small group of sport’s most powerful global elite is unknown.

What is certain is that Coates’s exit signals the end of an era.

“It might be viewed as such, I suppose,” Coates told The Ticket.

Unusually for Coates, it is also emotional.

“It is emotional. I think you’d accept that and understand that,” he said.

“But I’m very, very pleased with the state of the AOC as I leave it, so all my emotions are good, I think.

“It’s an appropriate time for me to leave.”

Steadying the ship

Coates survived a bitter presidential election in 2017 and a subsequent workplace review following public allegations of a bullying culture at the AOC. He conceded at the time it had damaged Australia’s Olympic brand.

He said he looked back at the time as personally “humiliating”.

The organisation resembled a pitching ship. New senior executives were charged with turning around the AOC’s battered hull.

First Nations recognition, reconciliation, and Olympic school and education programs are some of the areas Coates lists as measurable achievements in the years since.

Most dramatically, he helped to deliver Australia’s third summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Brisbane in 2032.

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