Coates sees off Roche; to remain Australian Olympic chief

The 66-year-old, one of the sporting world's most powerful figures, would have lost his roles as International Olympic Committee vice president and head of the coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Games if the vote had gone against him.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president and Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates speaks to delegates before the ballot for the position of AOC President at the body's annual general meeting in Sydney on Saturday.   -  Reuters

John Coates survived a threat to his long reign over the Australian Olympic Committee when he comfortably beat Danni Roche in a ballot at the body's annual general meeting to be re-elected president.

The 66-year-old, one of the sporting world's most powerful figures, would have lost his roles as International Olympic Committee vice president and head of the coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Games if the vote had gone against him.

After an acrimonious campaign, however, the lawyer won 58 of the 93 votes, with Olympic hockey gold medallist Roche supported by 35 of the AOC executive members, sporting bodies and athletes' representatives who made up the electorate.

“Thank you for your confidence in me,” Coates said after his re-election was met with a round of applause and a few whoops at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.

Roche had taken aim at Coates's A$700,000 ($520,000) annual consultancy fee and pledged to divert more funding to athletes from administration. Coates had accused Roche of being a puppet of government-appointed mandarins who, he alleged, were bent on bringing an end to the independence of the AOC.

Athletes, media pundits and business leaders queued up to take sides with both sides filling acres of Australian newsprint with their views.

Coates, who assumed office in 1990, has not come through the process unscathed, however, and lost his fiercely loyal media director Mike Tancred to accusations of bullying from former AOC Chief Executive Fiona de Jong during the campaign.

While his financial and money-raising acumen remain beyond doubt, he must find a way to work with the government, through the federally funded Australian Sports Commission, to arrest the country's slide down the medal tables in recent Olympics.

Having finished fourth at Athens in 2004, Australia was 10th at Rio last year and the friction between the AOC and the ASC, led by wealthy Melbourne businessman John Wylie, was almost certainly behind the damaging presidential campaign.

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