Australia’s most senior Olympic official has claimed his awkward exchange with Annastacia Palaszczuk was ‘completely misinterpreted’ as his contemporaries rush to his defence.
A clip of John Coates insisting the Queensland Premier attend Tokyo’s opening ceremony before lecturing her on ‘protocols’ in front of a globally-beamed press conference went viral on Thursday morning.
‘You are going to the opening ceremony,’ Coates, also the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, said as he crossed his arms and sat back in his chair.
Sports journalist Roy Masters, 79, insisted the seemingly condescending address was ‘staged’ to let Ms Palaszczuk ‘off the hook’ and able to attend the ceremony without attracting criticism back home from residents unable to leave the country.
Former politician Graham Richardson, 71, agreed, saying the pair were close friends and the exchange was an example of ‘mates taking a ribbing from each other’.
IOC vice-president John Coates (right) denied was called a ‘dinosaur’ on Thursday after he chastised Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) publicly for not attending the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony on Friday
Former politician Graham Richardson (pictured with wife Amanda) has leapt to the defence of AOC boss John Coates saying he and Ms Palaszczuk are ‘great mates’
The controversial press conference was held moments after Brisbane had been announced as the winner of the 2032 Olympic Games and Ms Palaszczuk revealed she would watch Tokyo’s opening ceremony from her hotel room.
‘I’m still the deputy chair of the candidature leadership group and so far as I understand, there will be an opening and closing ceremony in 2032 and all of you are going to get along [to Tokyo’s opening ceremony] and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved,’ he said.
‘So none of you are staying behind and hiding in your rooms, alright?’, Coates persisted to a very unimpressed looking Ms Palaszczuk.
‘You’ve never been to an opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, have you? You don’t know the protocols,’ Coates said.
Ms Palaszczuk did not respond.
‘It’s a very important lesson for everyone here. The opening ceremonies cost in the order of 75 million to 100 million dollars. That’s a major, major exercise for any organising committee. It puts the stamp on the games,’ he continued on.
‘It’s very important to the broadcasts that follow. And I think it’s my very strong recommendation the premier and the lord mayor and the minister be there and understand it. And while they’re there, they can also be very proud to watch the parade of nations and particularly the Australian team.’
When referring to the exchange later in the press conference Ms Palaszczuk said: ‘I don’t want to offend anybody, so,’ before trailing off.
Pictured: John Coates (left) and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (second left) celebrate with other delegates after Brisbane was announced as the 2032 Summer Olympics host city during the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo on July 21, 2021
Coates claimed a reluctant Palaszczuk must attend the ceremony despite her Covid concerns
But Ms Palaszczuk – an experienced diplomat – told ABC News Breakfast later that there were no hard feelings.
‘He’s fantastic. If we didn’t have John Coates, this would not have happened,’ she said.
‘He has been the driving force behind us securing the Olympics. He has been able to get all levels of government to work together for us to have this bid and his engagement with the business community, his networks are absolutely phenomenal.’
‘I’m going to give credit where credit’s due. It’s great for him that he was there with Sydney [in 2000] and now he’s ushered in this opportunity for Brisbane and Queensland.’
Popular former NRL coach and sports journalist Roy Masters agreed, penning a column for The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday afternoon calling Coates ‘the best politician in Australia’.
He said Coates was pivotal in Sydney’s successful bid for the 2000 Olympics by travelling through Africa and with former PM Gough Whitlam and lobbying countries there for their vote.
‘The one politician Coates most resembles, both in political leaning and love of the one-liner – clever but guaranteed to attract retribution – is Whitlam,’ Masters wrote.
Scenes of celebration broke out in Brisbane on Wednesday night after the city was awarded the 2032 Olympic Games
Families celebrate in Brisbane after learning the Olympics will come to Australia in 2032
He also claimed the whole exchange was staged – that Ms Palaszczuk needed someone to ‘get her off the hook’ from returning to Queensland to quarantine.
Coates apparently rang the newspaper to say Ms Palaszczuk had actually thanked him after they walked away from the cameras.
‘The media in Brisbane have been giving her a hard time, saying she shouldn’t go to the opening ceremony, but she had to go,’ he said.
‘The plan was I was going to fix it. I fixed it. I was taking the heat off her. We all came back and had a drink all night in my room to celebrate. I wasn’t having a go at her at all.’
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (L) hold up copies of the Host Agreement after Brisbane was announced as the 2032 Summer Olympics host city with President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach
Independent Australian senator Rex Patrick was joined by other lawmakers social media users in calling out Mr Coates for his public comments to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday, with many calling him a ‘dinosaur’ and ‘disrespectful’
Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and John Coates (right) are both in Tokyo for the Olympics which had been delayed 12 months
In a statement released overnight by the AOC, Coates himself claimed people watching the video wouldn’t have understood his comments.
‘My comments regarding the Premier and the opening ceremony have been completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room,’ he said.
‘The Premier and I have a long-standing and very successful relationship. We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way.
‘Those in doubt should ask her.’
Another contemporary, former politician Graham Richardson also praised Coates saying he was instrumental in delivering Sydney’s games, considered by some to be the best ever held.
‘Sydney came alive in a way it had never done before. The whole town buzzed with an electric charge … That is the reward for cities that have the honour of hosting the Games,’ he wrote for The Australian.
He said Coates – ‘who must have more frequent flyer miles than anyone on Earth’ – and Palaszczuk are great friends.
‘No one but Coates, in his imperious manner, would sit at a press conference with a premier and nudge that premier very strongly about the necessity that she attend the Games opening ceremony in Tokyo.’
‘Mates can take a bit of ribbing from each other,’ Mr Richardson said, adding if their relationship was in any way strained the pair could not have accomplished the mammoth tasks of securing another Games for Australia.
BRISBANE OLYMPICS GAMES 2032 – THE PLAN
Cost: $5billion, estimated
Economic benefit: Queensland – about $8.1billion, plus $8.6billion in increased export opportunities and $20.2billion in international tourist expenditure. Australia – estimated $17.6billion.
Proposed dates: Jul 23 – August 8, 2032
Venues: 32 venues for 28 sports at Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Melbourne and Sydney
Brisbane: 22 venues. Popular Brisbane sporting and entertainment venues including Suncorp Stadium (rugby), Ballymore (hockey), the Gabba (athletics), the Chandler Sports Complex (cycling, shooting, diving, gymnastics), the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (table tennis, badminton, fencing, taekwondo), Brisbane Showgrounds (equestrian), Royal Queensland Golf Club (golf), Victoria Park (BMX, equestrian) and Queensland Tennis Centre (tennis).
New venues to be constructed will include the Moreton Indoor Sports Centre (boxing), the Redland Whitewater Centre (canoe/slalom) and the Ipswich Stadium (modern pentathlon).
Brisbane athletes’ village: 300-hectare site in the North Shore Hamilton precinct.
Gold Coast: Six venues. Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (weightlifting, volleyball preliminaries), Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre (judo, wrestling), Broadbeach Park Stadium (beach volleyball), Broadwater Parklands (triathlon), Coomera Indoor Sports Centre (volleyball, wheelchair rugby), Robina Stadium (football, preliminaries).
Planned residential village for 2600 Gold Coast-based athletes and officials will be built at Robina.
Sunshine Coast: Four venues. Sunshine Coast Stadium (football -preliminaries), Sunshine Coast Indoor Sports Centre (basketball – preliminaries), Alexandra Headlands (cycling – road, athletics – marathon, walks, sailing – kiteboarding); Sunshine Coast Mountain Bike Centre (mountain biking)
Sunshine Coast satellite athletes’ village in heart of Maroochydore CBD
Toowoomba, Townsville, Cairns (football preliminaries)
Sydney and Melbourne (football preliminaries and quarter finals)
Another sports columnists for the Herald Greg Baum called Coates a ‘stegosaurus’ however.
‘Everything about the image he projected to Palaszczuk at that media briefing was out of tune with the moment, which should have been euphoric,’ he said.
‘With the world right now, which is tired and raw and could do with a bit of civility [isn’t] in which mansplaining is supposed to be going out of fashion?’
Other MPs back in Australia have slammed the Olympics Games in Queensland, saying they would contribute to a huge economic waste.
The leader of the One Nation party shared a mocked up poster for Queensland Ms Palaszczuk with the phrase ‘let the games begin’ being changed to ‘let the waste begin’.
Some MPs within Queensland have rejected the announcement Brisbane will host the 2032 Olympic Games with Pauline Hanson labelling it a ‘waste of money’
‘It’s official Brisbane will be holding the Olympics which means funding that could go to schools, hospitals, highways, water security, electricity generation, you name it, has been thrown out so Palaszczuk and Labor, with the backing of Scott Morrison and the Coalition, can waste billions on an Olympics vanity project,’ Ms Hanson wrote on Facebook.
‘Mark my words, we will be seeing cost blowouts and waste that will make your eyes water.
‘And when it’s time to pay the bill, it’s every taxpaying Aussie who will be forced to pay the price.’
Bob Katter, Member for Kennedy, in far north Queensland, even went so far as to blow up a makeshift ‘state economy’ to demonstrate his feelings towards the state hosting the Olympics.
Sharing footage of the bizarre political stunt online, Katter is seen pushing down on TNT explosives as a box representing the ‘economy’ erupted into flames behind him.
Bob Katter, Member for Kennedy, in far north Queensland, even went so far as to blow up a makeshift ‘state economy’ to demonstrate his feelings towards the state hosting the Olympics
‘Premier Palaszczuk blows up Queensland’s economy with her Brisbane Olympics,’ he captioned the video.
‘The Labor party doesn’t want coal or the sugar industry, so I’m not sure what will be funding her 2032 party?’.
Mr Katter has been loud in his opposition to Brisbane hosting the Olympics saying it will drain money from regional areas of the state.
‘The Queensland economy is being blown up before our eyes,’ Mr Katter told the Townsville Bulletin.
‘We should be focused on a vision for the state out of the pandemic, and I don’t think a two-week sporting carnival is going to be the panacea.
‘The rest of the world doesn’t think so anyway because no one else has bothered to bid for the 2032 Olympics.’
George Christensen, federal member for Dawson, also said he wouldn’t be supporting the games.