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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Sydney Olympics were bought ‘to a large extent’, said Australian official John Coates | Olympic Games

John Coates, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and outgoing president of the Australian National Olympic Committee, said “to a large extent” that Sydney was awarded the summer Olympic Games in 2000 because it “bought the Games”.

In extracts from a recently discovered hour-long interview in 2008, Coates revealed that he offered payments to two African National Olympic Committees who were represented on the IOC panel in exchange for their votes in 1993.

Coates, who is also the president of the court of arbitration for sport, was cleared of any wrongdoing in 1999 in respect to this by an independent report by the auditor Tom Sheridan after it was alleged that this amounted to him offering bribes in exchange for votes. Sheridan said the payments were not offered directly to the IOC members and also criticised the IOC guidelines for bidding cities as unworkable.

He later admitted promising an extra $35,000 to both the NOCs represented by Kenya’s IOC member Charles Mukora and Uganda’s IOC member Francis Nyangweso at a dinner on the last night before the IOC vote in Monte Carlo. “I wasn’t going to die wondering why we didn’t win,” said Coates in 1999, adding that there had been nothing “sinister” about the arrangement.

“There were no payments made, letters were handed over with commitments to two African NOCs,” he added in 2004 after an investigation by the BBC Panorama programme.

Coates, the leading Australian official in the Olympic movement, was vice-president of the Sydney bid committee. It is understood that Coates does not dispute that, on behalf of the Australian Organising Committee at the time, he offered contingent grants and sports assistance to the NOCs of Kenya and Uganda under the AOC’s programme of assistance to African NOCs. Such grants were not in breach of any IOC candidature rules at the time. They were subsequently banned by the IOC in the wake of a corruption scandal surrounding Salt Lake City’s successful bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Coates detailed his agreement with Mukora and Nyangweso in 1993 in an hour-long interview ranging over his career with Victoria University sports lecturer Bob Stewart in 2008, as part of a Sports Oral History for the National Library of Australia.

Nyangweso was cleared of any wrongdoing by an investigation in 1999, while Mukora resigned from the IOC in 1999 after the Sheridan report recommended he should be expelled. Mukora was also accused of receiving payments to his personal bank account from the Salt Lake bid team.

Coates explained the offer to Mukora and Nyangweso, made by him as the president of the Australian Olympic Committee. “Clearly the Ugandan and Kenyan members I think were very nervous about having to deal with me because I sat at their table at a big banquet the night before,” he remembered. “So I just went over and said to them, ‘Look if, you know, if you vote for us and we get up, then there’s $50,000 US [a different figure to the $35,000 that has been reported] for each of your two National Olympic Committees, 10 a year for the next five years or whatever, you tell them it’s to be spent on sporting purposes.

“That subsequently, and it was quite open about it, it was all audited. But subsequently one of those members was seen to have directed the 10 into his own bank account and there was an inquiry into all of that and so it’s suggested we bought the Games. Well to a large extent we did …”

John Coates’s lawyers said he had not breached the IOC’s rules as they stood at the time.
John Coates’s lawyers said he had not breached the IOC’s rules as they stood at the time. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Coates also said that he arranged for athletes and coaches from African countries to be provided with scholarships to train at the renowned Australian Institute of Sport in Adelaide in the lead up to the Sydney Games at a cost that was later revealed to have reached $2m, a scheme he admitted was “very important” in securing the Games.

“Wherever we would go the Chinese had put a hospital in … we were driving into Mali and they’d just say: ‘Oh, that’s the bridge that the Chinese have just built’. And they were doing the same in the Pacific,” recalled Coates.

“Obviously our government doesn’t spend money like that … And so we went away with a package of scholarships to the AIS and we were offering for two athletes and a coach to come. The idea was that the coach would learn something and go back and be able to pass that on to a wider group of people. We got there and we saw what was happening in the real world.

“So I took the decision to make it – ‘well there’s one scholarship we’re giving out but if we win you get it every year for seven years and we’ll run a camp in Australia for all your teams before they come here’. And we did that – we spent a fair bit of money.”

A spokesperson for the IOC told the Guardian that none of its regulations at the time had been broken.

“At the time of the Sydney 2000 candidature, financial support from an NOC standing as a candidate to an NOC for sports development was not included in the rules in force at that time. When this situation became public, it was stated that the then rules had not been breached. However, immediately afterwards the rules of conduct for the following candidature process were amended in 2003.”

Lawyers acting for Coates said he had a long and distinguished reputation in the Olympic movement and the world of sport and expressed concern that the extracts had been taken out of context. They added: “We are instructed that the IOC publicly confirmed that Mr Coates had not breached its rules at the time.”

Ian Chesterman, the chef de mission of the Australia team at the Tokyo Olympics, is succeeding Coates as AOC president after being elected by AOC delegates on Saturday.

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