Coates returns as Australian Olympic Committee president

IOC vice president John Coates' first test of his Australian Olympic Committee presidency in nearly three decades turned out to be not much of a contest. Regardless of his resounding win, Coates figures the campaign might have come at a cost to the Olympic fraternity Down Under.

Coates will serve another term as AOC chief after easily beating former field hockey gold medalist Danni Roche 58 to 35 in an election during the AOC's annual general meeting in Sydney on Saturday.

Coates, who turns 67 on Sunday, is also the coordination chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Games, responsible for ensuring planning for the games is on schedule and on budget. He could have lost his IOC vice presidency and his Tokyo duties if he had been defeated by Roche.

It was the first time Coates had faced an election since he became president in 1990, and came amid an acrimonious campaign which divided former athletes and administrators.

''Thank you for the confidence you have shown in me,'' Coates said after the result was announced. Roche, who announced her candidacy on March 20, later tweeted her congratulations to Coates.

Coates later admitted the AOC ''brand has been damaged'' by the bitter presidency campaign.

''It's an election campaign ... it has happened, and you just get on with things,'' he said. ''I'm hoping that the Olympic membership, having experienced this, will come together.''

Coates' leadership had been questioned in recent weeks amid accusations of bullying within the organization. His long-time media director, Mike Tancred, stood down from his duties pending an investigation.

Tancred has denied the bullying allegations made by former AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong, but said last week he would step aside from his position until the matter was resolved.

Coates and the AOC executive have since agreed to independent reviews into the AOC's workplace practices after the bullying claims.

In her published campaign platform, the 46-year-old Roche said she would have not accepted Coates' yearly remuneration of 750,000 Australian dollars ($565,000) and would have proposed a 100,000 Australian dollars ($75,000) salary package for the president - which she would have waived for the entirety of her term - to illustrate her commitment to the funding of athletes.

''Although the AOC's members didn't vote for a change in president, the past six weeks marks a pivotal moment in Australian sport,'' Roche said after the vote.

''We have started a much-needed conversation about the future direction of Australian sport and the responsibility the Australian Olympic Committee has in supporting its member sports and athletes.''

Coates had received the endorsement of the AOC athletes' commission, which accounted for two votes on Saturday.

But its support, which it said was not unanimous, came with strong recommendations for change, including the president's salary.

''The overwhelming response from the athlete population and alumni was that there is a desire for change,'' it said in a statement. ''The Athletes' Commission supports a review of the president's remuneration. Any remuneration should be commensurate with the role undertaken.''

Eligible voters on Saturday included the AOC's executive board members, two members from each of the 33 Summer Olympic sports federations and two each from the seven Australian Winter Olympic federations.

Coates has indicated this will be his last term in charge of the AOC, and that he could retire after the Tokyo Games.

In the meantime, he said he took great delight in hearing from Tokyo 2020 organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori, not long after the results Saturday became known.

''I received a message from president Mori already,'' Coates said. ''I think you know my commitment. This is the most important task I have been given in the Olympic movement, since Sydney. It's something I am absolutely loving, working with the organizing committee, the Tokyo municipal government, the federal government and all of your athletes. And to give them the benefit of what experience I have, it's a joy for me. You will continue to see lots of me.''

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