The Sydney Olympics were “bought in large part”, said Australian official John Coates | Olympic games

John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and outgoing president of Australia’s National Olympic Committee, said “broadly” that Sydney was awarded the 2000 Summer Olympics because it “bought the Games”.

In excerpts from a recently discovered hour-long interview in 2008, Coates announced that he offered payments to two African National Olympic Committees represented on the IOC body in exchange for their votes in 1993.

Coates, who is also President of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, was cleared of any wrongdoing in this regard by an independent report by auditor Tom Sheridan in 1999 after he was accused of offering bribes in exchange for votes. Sheridan said the payments were not offered directly to IOC members and also criticized the IOC guidelines for candidate cities as unworkable.

He later admitted he had promised the two NOCs, represented by Kenya’s IOC member Charles Mukora and Uganda’s IOC member Francis Nyangweso, an additional $35,000 at a dinner the last night before the IOC vote in Monte Carlo. “I didn’t want to ask myself why we didn’t win,” Coates said in 1999, adding that there was nothing “sinister” about the arrangement.

“No payments were made, letters of promise were handed over to two African NOCs,” he added in a 2004 investigation by BBC Panorama.

Coates, the leading Australian official in the Olympic movement, was vice president of the Sydney bid committee. It is understood that Coates does not deny that he offered conditional grants and sporting support to the Kenya and Uganda NOCs under the AOC African NOCs Aid Scheme on behalf of the then Australian Organizing Committee. Such grants did not violate any IOC application rules at the time. They were subsequently banned by the IOC in the wake of a corruption scandal surrounding Salt Lake City’s successful bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Coates detailed his 1993 arrangement with Mukora and Nyangweso in a one-hour interview about his career with Victoria University physical education lecturer Bob Stewart in 2008 as part of a sports oral history for the National Library of Australia.

Nyangweso was acquitted of any wrongdoing by an inquest in 1999, while Mukora resigned from the IOC in 1999 after the Sheridan report recommended that he be expelled. Mukora was also accused of receiving payments into his personal bank account from the Salt Lake bidding team.

Coates explained to Mukora and Nyangweso the offer he had made as president of the Australian Olympic Committee. “I thought the Ugandan and Kenyan members were very nervous because I had sat at their table at a big banquet the night before,” he recalled. “So I just walked over and said to them, ‘Look, if you vote for us and we stand up, there’s $50,000 [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, tell them to spend on sporting causes.

“That afterwards, and that was quite open, everything was checked. But later it was seen that one of those members had transferred the 10 to his own bank account and there was an investigation into all of this and so it was suggested that we buy the games. Well, to a large extent, we’ve done it…”

John Coates’ lawyers said he did not break the IOC rules as they stood at the time. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Coates also said he arranged for athletes and coaches from African countries to receive bursaries to train at the prestigious Australian Institute of Sport in Adelaide ahead of the Sydney Games, at a cost later revealed to be £2 million dollars had reached. A scheme he admitted was “very important” in securing the games.

“Wherever we went, the Chinese had set up a hospital… we drove to Mali and they just said, ‘Oh, that’s the bridge the Chinese just built.’ And they did the same thing in the Pacific,” Coates recalls.

“Obviously our government doesn’t spend that kind of money… And so we went to the AIS with a scholarship package and offered that two athletes and a coach would come. The idea was that the trainer learns something and goes back and can pass that on to a larger group of people. We got there and saw what was happening in the real world.

“So I made the decision to do it – ‘Well we give a scholarship but if we win you get it every year for seven years and we do a camp in Australia for all your teams before they come here. ‘ . And that’s what we did – we spent quite a bit of money.”

A spokesman for the IOC told the Guardian that none of its rules at the time had been breached.

“At the time of the Sydney 2000 candidacy, financial support from an NOC standing as a candidate for an NOC for sport development was not included in the rules then in force. When this situation became public, it was said that the rules at the time had not been broken. Immediately afterwards, however, in 2003, the rules of conduct for the subsequent application process were changed.”

Lawyers working for Coates said he had a long and distinguished reputation in the Olympic movement and the sporting world and expressed concern that the extracts had been taken out of context. They added: “We have been instructed that the IOC has publicly confirmed that Mr Coates had not broken his rules at the time.”

Ian Chesterman, the chef de mission of Australia’s team at the Tokyo Olympics, succeeds Coates as AOC president after being elected by AOC delegates on Saturday.

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