Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates says that comments he made towards Annastacia Palaszczuk were “misinterpreted” after he appeared to order the Queensland premier to attend the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
Just hours before Brisbane was awarded hosting rights for the 2032 Olympic Games, Coates became embroiled in a fiery exchange with Palaszczuk in which he appeared to lecture her about the necessity to attend Friday’s opening ceremony in Tokyo – despite Covid concerns which have mandated that spectators will not be granted access to events amid a worsening situation in the virus-hit region.
Palaszczuk had previously said that she will not be attending the ceremony due to risks of contracting the virus, but also in the face of public opposition in Australia to ‘unnecessary’ trips which could threaten the country’s efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Currently around half of Australians are under lockdown due to various outbreaks of the disease, and travel caps are limiting the numbers of Australians who are stranded abroad from returning home.
Coates, though, who is also the vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), issued stinging criticism of Palaszczuk’s stance in a bizarre diatribe at a press conference on Wednesday – with Palaszczuk sitting directly beside him.
“You are going to the opening ceremony,” Coates declared. “I am still the deputy chair of the candidature leadership group [for the 2032 bid]. So far as I understand, there will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032, and all of you have got to get along there and understand the tradition parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony.
“None of you are staying behind hiding in your rooms, all right?
“You’ve never been to the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games have you? You don’t know the protocols. I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here. The opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75-100m – it’s a major exercise for any organizing committee, it puts the stamp on the Games, it’s very important to the broadcasters that follow.”
The manner, or more specifically the tone, of Coates’ comments drew considerable ire online – and he quickly moved into damage control mode as the media circled, saying that he believes that Palaszczuk should attend the event, but also that she could see the “spirit” of his statement.
“My comments regarding the premier and the opening ceremony have been completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room,” he said.
“Absolutely I believe the premier should come to the opening ceremony and she has accepted. I am thrilled about that. Attending the opening ceremony has always been her choice.
“We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way. Those in doubt should ask her.”
Classic mansplaining, patronising and bullying by man who can’t wear a mask that fits.Additionally, unprofessional and uncalled for in a public setting.
— My father calls me Mary (@65georgiegirl) July 21, 2021
There are some days when you feel it is all hopeless. Here is a very powerful woman being bullied by a man in a very public way. And he will get away with it like all the other men do. We are kidding ourselves if we think things are getting better.
— Sandra N (@attempt57) July 21, 2021
That was disgraceful. It was gendered, humiliating and disrespectful. @AnnastaciaMP handled it well, but I cringed for her and all the times we, as women, have had to endure this type of behaviour and stay silent to protect men’s egos and therefore ourselves. #EnoughIsEnough
— Lucie (@bridgetsmuse) July 21, 2021
Palaszczuk also sought to downplay the bickering on Thursday and confirmed that she will indeed attend the ceremony as part of an Australian delegation.
“I’ve known John for years,” she said via ABC.
“So what’s happened now is that the lord mayor and the federal minister and I are expected to go. So I will leave that to John Coates and (IOC president) Thomas Bach. But let me make it clear – I am not going to offend anyone now that we’ve just been awarded the Games.”
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Commenters online were quick to chastise Coates not just for his stance on the matter, but the way in which he expressed it – with many online accusing him of “bullying”.
“Classic mansplaining, patronizing and bullying by man who can’t wear a mask that fits. Additionally, unprofessional and uncalled for in a public setting,” wrote one.
“There are some days when you feel it is all hopeless,” added another. “Here is a very powerful woman being bullied by a man in a very public way. And he will get away with it like all the other men do. We are kidding ourselves if we think things are getting better.”
“That was disgraceful,” noted a third. “It was gendered, humiliating and disrespectful. @AnnastaciaMP handled it well, but I cringed for her and all the times we, as women, have had to endure this type of behavior and stay silent to protect men’s egos and therefore ourselves.”