The Helpful Hand Guiding Brisbane’s Olympic Victory


John Coates may be the most influential figure in the Olympic movement after IOC President Thomas Bach. Critics of Coates say he has too much power.

TOKYO – The result couldn’t have been more satisfying for the guy who wrote the rules.

On Wednesday, members of the International Olympic Committee confirmed that Brisbane, Australia, will host the Summer Games in 2032, awarded the event under new hosting provisions designed for the IOC by John Coates, one of the organisation’s vice presidents. The first city to be . The return of the Games to Australia was particularly satisfying for Coates: he also heads the victorious Australian Olympic Committee.

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Brisbane’s seamless passage from the preferred candidate to the Olympic host city was the first test of a streamlined bidding process that was hailed as an effort to cut down on the expense and waste inherent in the bidding system, and one that created one that allows better candidates be able to produce But by placing the choice of a so-called preferred candidate city in the hands of some top IOC leaders, the rules have raised new questions about fairness and about the role of Coates, the most influential figure in the Olympic movement since the IOC. President, Thomas Bach.

For Bach, Coates has become a major lieutenant, a man who knows how to get things done in the labyrinthine world of the game’s politics. But that close relationship has also benefited Coates, a 71-year-old lawyer whose accumulation of power at the nexus of sporting politics, protest and discipline has led some to wonder about the independence of the bodies he quietly controls. .

For example, Coates was appointed by Bach as the IOC’s liaison for the Tokyo Olympics, a position he helped guide the successful delivery of this year’s pandemic Games. This was in addition to his leadership of the IOC’s Legal Commission, a body that monitors athletes’ right to protest, among other things, and the Australian Olympic Committee, which he has led for more than three decades.

But Coates is also wearing another hat that could be even more impressive: He chairs the body that oversees the sport’s top court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the body that last year banned state-sponsored doping. Russia’s sentence was significantly reduced.

“From being the main figure in the sport in Australia to being a highly influential figure within the IOC, their nets are everywhere,” said Duncan McKay, founder of Olympic-focused website Inside the Games. “He has the ear of Thomas Bach and has for many years. Everyone knows how close he is to Bach and how influential he is and maybe that gives him another layer of power.”

That power has allowed them to back down against groups seeking to reform the way the Olympic movement conducted its business. Critics have also called, not coincidentally, a concentration of power among a small group of individuals like Coates.

“Whether there are real or perceived conflicts of interest, they are there,” said Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete, an advocacy group.

Kohler said that many of Coates’ roles have led him to describe her as a “one-stop shop”.

“For example,” he said, “the IOC Athletes Commission indicated that the IOC Legal Affairs Commission, chaired by Coates, would consider approving regulations for athletes breaking the podium protest in Tokyo. Wants to appeal against it, it goes to the CAS, which is also headed by the Coates.

“It is not a separation of powers, nor is it a cry for freedom.”

The IOC has emphasized that Coates has distanced itself from any decision affecting Brisbane’s award of the 2032 Games. But Wednesday’s vote marked the second time Coates personally managed to lead Australia to the Olympics; More than two decades ago, he masterminded Sydney’s surprise victory over Beijing to stage the 2000 Games.

But the process couldn’t be denied that had Coats’ fingerprints moving forward to Brisbane as the sole candidate for 2032.

In 2016, Bach selected Ctes to lead a commission to devise a new way of selecting host cities. This change was prompted by the numerous scandals and costs associated with hosting the Olympics – or even chasing them – that began to shut down Western countries, where public sentiment opposed the Games. had narrowed the pool of candidates. Around the same time, Brisbane, which had previously unsuccessfully bid, said it was studying the feasibility of hosting them in 2028 or 2032.

As of February 2019, an 18-month study found that Brisbane had the potential to pursue a strong candidacy. A month later, Bach tasked Ctes to devise a way to make host city selection “even more flexible, targeted and dialogue-oriented”.

In June of that year, the IOC set up commissions that would recommend a host of so-called preferred candidates. A few months after that, Coates, in his capacity as leader of the Australian Olympic Committee, joined his country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, for talks with Bach in Tokyo to discuss the Brisbane bid.

By February 2021, after hearing expressions of interest from Qatar and Hungary, the IOC Executive Board announced that it would recommend Brisbane’s membership as the sole candidate for the 2032 Games.

In private, Brisbane’s rivals were left furious. Qatari officials wrote to the IOC to register their country’s complaints about the process. Publicly, the head of a German parliamentary committee stated that the result “can hardly be surpassed in terms of non-transparency.”

Bach, however, quickly went on to disregard suggestions that Coates may have put his thumb on the Brisbane scale.

“Our rules on conflicts of interest, which are enforced by our ethics and compliance officers, are extremely clear and strict,” Bach said. “That’s why he didn’t participate in any discussions about the Games in 2032 on the executive board.”

Still, Coates has made no secret of wanting to do anything to achieve his desired results in the past.

A year before the Sydney Games, for example, Coates revealed that the Australian Olympic Committee had offered two IOC members from Africa a $70,000 inducement on the eve of the host city vote in 1993. When the votes were counted, Sydney defeated the favourite, Beijing, by two votes. “Well, we didn’t win it on the beauty of the city and the sports facilities that we had to offer on our own, and we were never leaving,” Coates said at that time.

Richard Pound, the longest-serving member of the IOC, said some may not like Coates’ methods, but his skills and experience have made him an essential part of Bach’s leadership team.

“He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s very capable,” Pound said.

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