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John Coates responds to the controversy surrounding Annastacia Palaszczuk's press conference.

John Coates has responded to accusations that he was patronizing Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during a Tokyo press conference.

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates has fired back angrily against allegations that he disparaged Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

Mr Coates informed Ms Palaszczuk that following Brisbane's selection as the host city for the 2032 Olympics, she and other members of the bid delegation, including Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck, would attend the opening ceremony in Japan.

The AOC president's directive came after Ms Palaszczuk stated unequivocally that she would not attend the opening ceremony due to the pandemic, preferring to watch it from her hotel room.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland addresses a press conference at the MPC in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland addresses a press conference at the MPC in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Mr Coates informed Ms Palaszczuk, "You are attending the opening ceremony." “In 2032, there will be an opening and closing ceremony, and each of you, everyone present, must understand the traditional components of that, what constitutes an opening ceremony. None of you are going to stay at home and sit in your rooms.”

The Premier simply stated, "I don't want to offend anyone," in declining to accept or decline Mr Coates' instruction outright.

Many on social media called the exchange "awkward," while others blasted Coates for acting like a bully.

However, the AOC's leader refused to back down.

“My remarks about the Premier and the Opening Ceremony have been completely misconstrued by those who were not present,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“I believe without a doubt that the Premier should attend the Opening Ceremony, which she has accepted.

That makes me ecstatic. She has always chosen to attend the Opening Ceremony. My position has always been that representatives from all three levels of government should attend the Opening Ceremony. I have a long and fruitful relationship with the Premier. We both understand the context of my remarks, and I have no reason to believe she was offended in any way.

“Those who are in doubt should consult her.”

Between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and John Coates, there was an awkward moment.
Between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and John Coates, there was an awkward moment.
'This is revolting,' Coates says on social media.

While some found the exchange to be cringe-worthy, many were incensed by Mr Coates's manner of speaking to Ms Palaszczuk.

Natalie Forrest, a journalist, tweeted: "Wow... who the hell does John Coates believe he is?"

Mary Gearin, a television reporter and presenter, wrote: "Wow indeed. What an unusual way for John Coates to address a Premier. Indeed, anyone during the reign of Covid.”

Ellen Fanning, a journalist, added: "Watch how John Coates addresses Queensland Premier @AnnastaciaMP... at an international press conference, turns the microphone on, arms folded, and repeatedly insists she attend the Opening Ceremony despite the Covid risk, rather than 'hiding in your room.' Quite remarkable.”

James Maasdorp described it as "painfully awful," while television personality Julia Zemiro stated: "A man continues telling... ordering... Premier Palaszczuk what to do and pestering... humiliating... her on a global stage."

Magda Szubanski, an Australian celebrity, also weighed in. “John Coates' behavior is way beyond awkward and veers dangerously close to thuggish,” she tweeted.

Shalailah Medhora of Triple J said: "Can you imagine John Coates speaking to a male Premier in this manner?" It is more than belligerent.”

Leigh Russell, the former CEO of Swimming Australia, was incensed. “This is repulsive. And yet another illustration of how women are treated in sport,” she tweeted.

“#AnastasiaPalaszczuk is in a precarious position. Do not go, her constituents; why should you have all the fun while we are in the midst of a pandemic? Bully boys of sport, you are not admitted to the club unless you come drink expensive wine with us....after all, isn't that what sport is all about?

Jen Browning, a journalist, described the exchange as "super awks," while Marty Silk wrote, "Pretty disrespectful way to address a three-time-elected Australian political leader."

Lord Mayor Adrian Shrinner of Brisbane was also present at the press conference.
Lord Mayor Adrian Shrinner of Brisbane was also present at the press conference.
Coates is not a source of contention for the Premier.

Ms Palaszczuk maintained a rosy picture of her relationship with Mr Coates when questioned on ABC Breakfast about the exchange and her plans for the opening ceremony.

Millar, Lisa: Premier, we've been playing footage from a press conference held overnight during which John Coates was quite insistent on your attendance at the opening ceremony. It's a little difficult to decipher what's going on when you're wearing masks and we have no idea what's going on behind those masks. You did not appear pleased with the exchange. What was the point?

Palaszczuk: I believe that this is... Thus, what has transpired Lisa is that we have been officially awarded the Games.

LM: However, I'm referring to the exchange with John Coates.

Palaszczuk: I've known John for a long period of time. Thus, the Lord Mayor, the Federal Minister, and I are expected to depart. As a result, I will defer to John Coates and Thomas Bach. However, let me be clear — I have no intention of offending anyone now that we have been awarded the Games.

LM: Why weren't you attending the opening ceremony?

Palaszczuk: To begin with? That was before the Games were even announced.

LM: Correct, but you were in Tokyo. It all seemed very strange, and then there was this press conference in which John Coates appeared to lay down the law.

Palaszczuk: No, I believe you're simply... I believe you're merely arguing semantics here. To be honest, there was no invitation issued. As a result, my understanding is that John Coates has stated that there is an expectation on the part of both himself as AOC President and Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee, as well as Thomas Bach as president.

LM: So everything is well with John Coates?

Palaszczuk: Without a doubt. He's incredible. Without John Coates, this would not have occurred. John Coates has been instrumental in our success in securing the Olympics. He has been able to bring together all levels of government to support this bid, and his engagement with the business community and his networks are absolutely phenomenal. And, by the way, I'm going to give credit where it's due. It's fantastic for him that he was with Sydney and has now brought this opportunity to Brisbane and Queensland. I am a tremendously proud Queenslander.

Mr Coates told Channel 7's Sunrise that he "overruled" Ms Palaszczuk's initial refusal to attend the opening ceremony, which, like the majority of the events, will be closed to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions in the Japanese capital.

“Yes, I did that (overrule the Premier) last night in a press conference,” Mr Coates confirmed on Thursday. “I'm not sure how she reacted when told, 'You're leaving.' In 2032, an opening and closing ceremony with the traditional components will take place. It is critical that all parties involved understand that this is a significant expenditure on the part of the organizing committee and that a great deal of thought must go into it – the parade of nations, for example, and all the traditional components. It is not an issue.”

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