Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates on Thursday rejected calls for his resignation, after an independent review of the organisation found its culture was “out of step” with “Olympic ideals”.

Coates, who earlier this year fought off a board challenge from retired Australian athlete Danni Roche, has previously been accused of doing little to rein in high-ranking colleague and AOC Media Director Mike Tancred’s alleged bullying of former AOC Chief Executive Fiona de Jong, who resigned last October, reports Xinhua news agency.

The findings, released on Thursday, said the AOC staff described the organisation as having cultural problems under Coates’ watch, but despite the review calling for a re-evaluation of the AOC’s cultural practices, Coates told reporters that he would not be standing down.

“Why should I resign? There has been no confirmation of bullying,” Coates told press on Thursday.

“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 AOC President went on to say that he welcomes the recommendations handed down in the report, acknowledging that the current governance model is not working.

“I’m very pleased with this report because the first recommendation addressed a big issue for us, and that is that we need to assess whether the governance model is fit for us,” Coates said.

“The model we have adopted, I acknowledge, is not fit for purpose — as the report points out.”

The review was ordered after claims were made against Tancred, who has since stepped down from his role.

The report said while staff had “immense pride” for what the AOC has achieved in recent years, there was a culture problem plaguing the organization.

“It is clear that the organization is currently facing significant challenges. The modes of operation that may at one time have served it well are being questioned and its organizational culture has come under scrutiny,” the findings said.

“While staff and stakeholders hold the AOC in high regard and express immense pride in what the organization has achieved over the years, they describe the organisation as being out of step — with both their ideals and minimum expectations for a modern organisation.

“Instead of seeing the organization as celebrating the best of the Olympic ideals, staff and stakeholders speak of a more immediate horizon of challenges and difficulties that stem from a culture that is not aligned with the ideals that the organisation aspires to uphold.”

The review also wants the AOC to answer the question of “how it can play a leadership role as an organisation in the Olympic family” while simultaneously “progressing the interests and ambitions of Australia”.

“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 recognized by staff, nor do they resonate strongly with them.”

The report also said that the AOC should implement an organisation-wide “culture plan” and should “manage the risk of poor culture” before it becomes a problem.

Meanwhile, AOC member and winter Olympics Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman was named as as summer Olympics Chef de Mission for Tokyo in 2020.

First Published | 24 August 2017 3:45 PM
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