In Australia Bitter rift rocks AOC as Coates fights for Olympic job

Powerful Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates is facing a crisis as he seeks re-election, with the organisation rocked by claims of bullying in a bitter push to oust him after 27 years.

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John Coates is seen as one of the most powerful figures in world sport, courtesy of being IOC vice-president and chairman of the co-ordination committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics play

John Coates is seen as one of the most powerful figures in world sport, courtesy of being IOC vice-president and chairman of the co-ordination committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

(AFP)
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Powerful Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates is facing a crisis as he seeks re-election, with the organisation rocked by claims of bullying in a bitter push to oust him after 27 years.

Coates, also International Olympic Committee vice-president, has never been challenged before but Olympic hockey gold medallist and businesswoman Danni Roche now wants his job, and reportedly has significant government backing.

She claims the administration is dictatorial and bloated and plans to cut costs and redirect money to athletes and underfunded sports in a shake up of AOC culture.

One contentious point is the more than Aus$700,000 (US$526,000) annual wage of a man seen as one of the most powerful figures in world sport, courtesy of being IOC vice-president and chairman of the co-ordination committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Roche, 47, has pledged to slash the salary to Aus$100,000 if she gets the job.

A secret ballot of summer and winter sports representatives will take place on May 6 for a new four-year term for the presidency, vice-presidency and board.

As the deadline looms, allegations of bullying have been splashed across Australia's front pages, mostly linked to Coates' right-hand man and media chief Mike Tancred as the AOC faces rare public scrutiny.

In a bid to get on top of the ballooning crisis, Coates called a extraordinary meeting of the executive board on Wednesday evening for "a sensible discussion" on the issues.

One of the claims came from former AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong, who alleged Tancred issued a "highly detailed and personal threat" against her and that Coates did nothing.

Tancred faced new allegations published by Fairfax Media on Wednesday that he harassed another former staffer for taking two days off during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 due to a miscarriage.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

In a letter written this week to national Olympic sports chiefs and the AOC executive, Coates, 67, said he was the victim of a "co-ordinated and vindictive campaign" to get rid of him.

He also rejected De Jong's allegations that he oversaw a culture of bullying.

"On the eve of the election for president, there is clearly a co-ordinated and sadly vindictive campaign to damage me personally and to tarnish all that has been achieved at the AOC,” he wrote in the letter obtained by the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

"This campaign is as disappointing as it is unfounded.”

He dismissed claims of a “lack of action” when complaints of bullying in the workplace were made.

"Specifically regarding the complaint made by Fiona De Jong I assure you due process has been followed and followed with urgency," he said.

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