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Coates refuses to resign as Olympic Committee president

AOC President John Coates has refused to step down in light of a damning workplace review. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
24th August, 2017
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Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates says he’s not to blame for a dysfunctional culture tarred by fear, favouritism and open hostility in the organisation.

Coates says he won’t quit following a damning independent review of the AOC which lifted the lid on poor workplace culture.

“Why should I resign?” Coates told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“There has been no confirmation of bullying.

“There has been some criticism of senior leaders – I’m the president, I’m not the senior leader that is being criticised.

“There has been no treatment of the staff by me that is objectionable.”

The review, released publicly on Thursday, highlighted disillusionment of staff with their treatment from AOC leaders.

Staffers told of senior leaders undermining each other and being openly hostile; of widespread concerns about favouritism; a lack of transparency in decision-making; and poor communication.

Many staff also held a view that some people had stayed in the organisation too long, which was a key plank in the campaign to win the AOC presidency by ex-Olympian Danni Roche, who unsuccessfully challenged Coates for the role last May.

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Coates said he welcomed the review by The Ethics Centre, which was commissioned following bullying claims which surfaced during the presidency campaign.

“I have not put anything under the carpet,” Coates said.

“I’m not disappointed in having this report now because I think it’s time for us to reassess whether we are fit for purpose.”

The review found the the AOC was “out of step with both their ideals and the minimum expectations for a modern organisation”.

“The principal cause of disillusionment is the way the organisation’s leadership treats staff and external stakeholders,” the review findings said.

“All stakeholder groups were able to provide examples of senior AOC officials acting poorly,” adding staffers described “deceitful”, “two-faced” “egotistic” and “belligerent” behaviour.

“A number of staff described the AOC as “the most dysfunctional” organisation that they have worked for. Staff described a ‘command and control’ structure that is akin to that of a conservative family business.

The review said the AOC “needs to answer the question of how it can play a leadership role as an organisation in the Olympic family while, at the same time, progressing the interests and ambitions of Australia”.

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“As it happens, the majority of the AOC’s values are neither strongly nor consistently expressed in practice,” the report said.

“Indeed, the AOC values are not widely recognised by staff, nor do they resonate strongly with them.”