When IOC Vice-President John Coates Said Sydney 2000 Olympics Bought ‘To Large Extent’

2022-05-01 Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Guardian's report on an interview in 2008 in which John Coates says Sydney 2000 Games were 'largely bought' - screenshot of Guardian report, courtesy of The Guardian

John Coates, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and outgoing president of the Australian National Olympic Committee, suggested that “to a large extent”, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were bought, according to a recently discovered hour-long interview in 2008.

The Guardian in the UK today reports that 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 (CAS) and drafted a letter praising his own contribution to Brisbane securing the 2032 Games, according to The Guardian, was cleared of any wrongdoing in 1999 in respect of the 1993 payments by an independent report from auditor Tom Sheridan after it was alleged that Coates’ actions amounted to him offering bribes in exchange for votes.

Sheridan’s concluded that the payments were not offered directly to IOC members. He also criticised the IOC guidelines for bidding cities as unworkable.

The Guardian also reports that Coates 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 on the 2000 bids in Monte Carlo.

Back in 1999, Coates said: “I wasn’t going to die wondering why we didn’t win”, 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 would says five years later, in 2004 after an investigation by the BBC Panorama programme which Andrew Jennings’ work down the years contributed significantly to.

Coates, the leading Australian official in the Olympic movement, was vice-president of the Sydney bid committee. The Guardian today reports:

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 …”

A spokesperson for the IOC told the Guardian that none of its regulations at the time had been broken but acknowledged: “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 told The Guardian that 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.”

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