Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates has defended his bizarre media conference with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, saying she “thanked me” for ordering her to attend Friday night’s opening ceremony.
Coates has been slammed for the way he spoke to Palaszczuk soon after Brisbane was awarded hosting rights to the 2032 Olympic Games, ordering her to attend the opening ceremony in Tokyo instead of “hiding” in her hotel room.
The veteran Olympics official, who is also an International Olympic Committee vice-president, contacted the Herald and The Age from Tokyo to clarify his remarks.
He says he had discussed the exchange with Palaszczuk because she was feeling pressure from sections of the media to not attend.
“We walked out of there [the media conference] and she thanked me,” Coates said. “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.
“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.
“The Premier and I have a longstanding and very successful relationship and we both know the spirit of my remarks. She has given no indication to me that she was offended in any way.”
Nevertheless, the exchange between Coates and Palaszczuk has been interpreted as breathtakingly awkward. Some have branded it misogynistic and demanded an apology.
It came at a media opportunity after Brisbane had been awarded the hosting rights to the 2032 Olympics, beating a field of only itself.
Palaszczuk has been under fire for travelling to Tokyo for the announcement, promising she would not attend the opening ceremony nor events.
“You are going to the opening ceremony,” Coates said with arms crossed. “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 there and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony, so none of you are staying behind and hiding in your rooms, all right?”
Palaszczuk laughed off the remarks, saying: “I’m getting bossed around by John Coates? Hang on a minute …” Later in the media conference she said she “didn’t want to offend anybody”.
Asked if she had been offended by his tone, given her awkward response, Coates said: “I surprised her. But anyone at the press conference would’ve seen the glint in my eye. I don’t think people understand how subtle I am. My comments have been completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room. People don’t know me.”
Palaszczuk said she had no rift with Mr Coates over the public exchange.
“He’s fantastic,” she told the ABC. “If we didn’t have John Coates, this would not have happened.
“John Coates 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.”
Coates scoffed at claims he was misogynistic because of the way he spoke to Palaszczuk.
“I’ve kept this relationship going for six years and there’s a long way to go,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong. The relationship is unbelievably strong. I believe the Premier should come to the opening ceremony. She’s accepted.”
A spokesman from the Premier’s office said he had nothing more to add.
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