Australia has reacted to an unusual moment between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and John Coates as many called out the “awkward” nature of their press conference exchange in Tokyo.
Some went further and slammed the Australian Olympic Committee boss for behaving like a bully.
After Brisbane was announced as host city for the 2032 Olympics, Mr Coates told Ms Palaszczuk she – and other members of the bid delegation including Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck – would be going to the opening ceremony in Japan.
The AOC president’s directive came after Ms Palaszczuk emphatically said she would not attend the opening ceremony because of the pandemic, and would instead watch it from her hotel room.
“You are going to the opening ceremony,” Mr Coates told Ms Palaszczuk on Wednesday night.
“There will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032 and all of you, everyone there, has got to understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony.
“None of you are staying home and going to be sitting in your room.”
The Premier simply said “I don’t want to offend anybody” as she declined to outright accept or decline Mr Coates’ instruction.
While some thought the exchange was cringeworthy, many were furious at how Mr Coates spoke to Ms Palaszczuk.
Journalist Natalie Forrest tweeted: “Wow … who the hell does John Coates think he is?”
TV reporter and presenter Mary Gearin wrote: “Wow indeed. What an extraordinary way for John Coates to talk to a Premier. Actually, anyone in the time of covid.”
Journalist Ellen Fanning added: “Watch how John Coates speaks to Qld Premier @AnnastaciaMP … at a press conference on an international stage, turns mike on, arms folded, repeatedly insists she go to the Opening Ceremony despite the covid risk rather than ‘hiding in your room’. Quite extraordinary.”
James Massdorp called it “painfully awkward” while TV personality Julia Zemiro said: “A man continues telling … ordering … Premier Palaszczuk what to do & pestering … humiliating … her on a world stage.”
Even Australian celebrity Magda Szubanski weighed in. “John Coates’ behaviour is waaaay past awkward and a loooong way into thuggish,” she tweeted.
Triple J’s Shalailah Medhora said: “Can you imagine John Coates talking to a male Premier this way? It’s beyond belligerent.”
Former Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell was outraged. “This is disgusting. And yet another example of how women are treated in sport,” she wrote on Twitter.
“#AnastasiaPalaszczuk in an impossible situation. Her constituents – don’t go – why should you have all the fun when we are in a pandemic? Bully boys of sport – you’re not in the club unless you come drink expensive wine with us….after all, that’s what sport is about, right?”
Journalist Jen Browning said the exchange was “super awks” and Marty Silk wrote: “Pretty disrespectful way to speak to a thrice-elected Australian political leader.”
Speaking on ABC Radio on Thursday morning, Ms Palaszczuk said “I’ll let them sort that out” when pressed again on if she would be attending the opening ceremony.
“John Coates was laying down the law last night,” she said. “We are now a part of the IOC family and I will do what John Coates says.”
The Premier later said she would be attending.
Mr Coates was standing firm on Thursday morning, telling Channel 7’s Sunrise he “overruled” Ms Palaszczuk after she initially said she would not be among the 1000 or so VIPs to attend the opening ceremony, which – like most of the events – will be closed to the public because of Covid-19 restrictions in the Japanese capital.
“Yes I did do that (overrule the Premier) in a press conference last night,” Mr Coates said on Thursday. “I’m not sure how she responded to being told, ‘You are going’.
“There will still be an opening and closing ceremony in 2032 with the traditional parts. It’s very important that all the players in this understand that it’s a very big expenditure by an organising committee, a lot of thought has to go into it – the parade of nations, all the traditional parts.
“Anyway, I’ve convinced them that they will all three be there. It’s not a problem.”