Lost in translation: Olympics boss defends outburst at Premier

A tense, awkward and very public exchange in which Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates ordered Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics has detracted from celebrations of Brisbane’s 2032 Games win. WATCH THE VIDEO

Jul 22, 2021, updated Jul 22, 2021
AOC President John Coates gave a very public dressing-down to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her plans not to attend the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony (Photo: Twitter, Daniel Sutton)

AOC President John Coates gave a very public dressing-down to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her plans not to attend the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony (Photo: Twitter, Daniel Sutton)

Palaszczuk had declared she would not attend the opening ceremony and instead return immediately to Queensland after Brisbane won the right to host the 2032 Olympics.

Her decision was in response to political criticism of her trip to Japan to spearhead Brisbane’s pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

However at a press conference following the International Olympic Committee’s endorsement of Brisbane’s bid, Coates insisted the Premier must be at the Tokyo ceremony.

“You are going to the opening ceremony,” he told her, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair.

“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 have got to get along there and understand the traditional parts of that.”

“So none of you are staying and hiding in your rooms, alright?”

In reply, a clearly bewildered Palaszczuk said: “I don’t want to offend anybody, so…”

‘You are going to the opening ceremony.’ Here is that awkward exchange between AOC President John Coates and Queensland Premier @AnnastaciaMP at a media conference in Tokyo last night. #Brisbane2032 @BreakfastNews

— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 21, 2021

In interviews following the exchange, she has insisted her announcement she would not attend the opening ceremony was made before Brisbane won the 2032 bid.

While it now appears she will show up to the event, she has stopped short of confirming that herself.

After much public criticism of his behaviour toward the Premier, Coates hit back, saying his comments had been “completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room”.

“Absolutely I believe the premier should come to the opening ceremony and she has accepted,” he said in a statement.

“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 she was offended in any way.”

On ABC Thursday morning, Palaszczuk said that now Brisbane was confirmed as 2032 host, there was an expectation that she, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck would go to the Tokyo opening ceremony.

“So I will leave that to John Coates and (IOC president) Thomas Bach but let me make it very clear I am not going to offend anyone now that we have just been awarded the Games,” she said.

Pressed on whether she would attend, she said: “You’re just talking semantics here. There wasn’t even an invitation that had been issued.”

The premier was quick to praise Coates’ role in the Brisbane bid, declaring that “if we didn’t have John Coates, this would not have happened”.

At the press conference, Coates said Olympic Games opening ceremonies cost between $75m to $100m and were major exercises for Games organising committees.

“It puts the stamp on the games,” he said.

‘My very strong recommendation is that the Premier and the Lord Mayor and the minister be there and understand it.”

Federal Sports Minister Colebeck who is part of the bid team in Tokyo said he would attend the ceremony out of respect for the IOC.

Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll defend Coates’ behaviour, saying he was committed to Brisbane’s candidature.

“He wants to get everything right. It (Coates’ comments) didn’t look good but they have a good relationship,” he told the ABC.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said IOC members obviously felt strongly about the opening ceremony. Now that Brisbane has been awarded the games, and based on Coates’ comments, he believed Palaszczuk “should go”.

He downplayed any rift between Palaszczuk and Coates.

“I know that John Coates and the Premier are very close, they have a very strong relationship,” Miles said.

Palaszczuk said Brisbane’s win showed mid-sized cities can actually get the Games under their IOC’s new protocols.

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