Olympics V-P defiant after 'mansplaining' backlash

John Coates publicly berated Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her plans not to attend the event.
John Coates publicly berated Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her plans not to attend the event.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (AFP) - International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates on Thursday (July 22) denied bullying a female politician to attend the Tokyo Games opening ceremony, after some labelled him a "mansplaining dinosaur".

Coates, also the head of the Australian Olympic Committee, publicly berated Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her plans not to attend the event, after her state capital Brisbane was named 2032 host city late Wednesday.

"You are going to the opening ceremony," he said, crossing his arms and sitting back in his chair.

"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," he said.

"So none of you are staying behind and hiding in your rooms, alright?" Palaszczuk - one of the most senior women in Australian politics - was visibly uncomfortable, staying silent throughout his monologue.

"I don't want to offend anybody, so," she said later in the press conference, before trailing off.

Australian lawmakers pilloried Coates for his behaviour, calling on him to apologise and even resign.

"John Coates should resign on return from Tokyo," independent senator Rex Patrick tweeted. "He's a social and political dinosaur who has spent far too long in the rarefied, self-interested @Olympics bubble." Social media users also called out Coates for his "bullying" of the centre-left leader.

"Someone asked what the definition of a mansplaining dinosaur looked like and Coates simply raised his hand," one tweeted.

Former Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell labelled it "disgusting" while conservative MP Darren Chester called it a "disrespectful performance which reeked of arrogance".

In a statement released by the Australian Olympic Committee, Coates said that his comments had been "completely misinterpreted by people who weren't in the room".

"The Premier and I have a long standing and very successful relationship. We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way," he said.

Palaszczuk, who is under political pressure for flying to Tokyo during the pandemic, played down the incident, telling public broadcaster ABC that Coates was "fantastic" and the "driving force behind us securing the Olympics".

Most Australians are prevented from travelling overseas due to strict international border closures, while about half the country's population of 25 million is currently under lockdown.