Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has copped a public broadside from Australian Olympics boss John Coates, just as the pair were meant to be celebrating Brisbane’s Games triumph.
In an internationally-streamed press conference on Wednesday, just hours are Brisbane was officially awarded the 2032 Olympics, Mr Coates – the Australian Olympic Committee president – ordered the Premier to attend Friday’s opening ceremony in Tokyo.
“You are going to the opening ceremony,” he said.
“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.”
Ms Palaszczuk’s trip to Tokyo for the Brisbane announcement in the middle of the pandemic has been controversial.
More than 130,000 people signed a petition saying she should not go, as long as international travel remained off limits for most Australians. She went anyway – along with Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck – but said she would turn down any invitation to the opening ceremony.
Late on Wednesday night, basking in the glow of Brisbane’s 2032 victory, that all fell apart.
“None of you are staying home and going to be sitting in your room,” Mr Coates told Ms Palaszczuk, amid crossed arms and awkward body language at the press conference.
“You’ve never been to an opening ceremony. You don’t know the protocols and I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here – opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75 to $100 million.
“My very strong recommendation is the Premier and the Lord Mayor and the Minister be there and understand it.”
Ms Palaszczuk responded only with: “I don’t want to offend anybody, so …”
It’s a line she maintained in an interview with ABC TV’s News Breakfast on Thursday.
“I’ve known John for years. So what’s happened now is that the Lord Mayor and the general minister and I are expected to go,” she said.
“I will leave that to John Coates and [International Olympics Committee president] Thomas Bach. But let me make it clear – I am not going to offend anyone now that we’ve just been awarded the Games.”
She said it was clear there was an expectation that the Australian contingent would attend Friday’s opening ceremony, as the hosts of the 2032 Games. And there was public praise for Mr Coates:
“John Coates has been the driving force behind us securing the Olympics. He has been able to get all levels of government to work together for us to have this bid and his engagement with the business community, his networks are absolutely phenomenal,” the Premier said.
“I’m going to give credit where credit is due … It’s great for him that he was with Sydney and now he’s ushered in this opportunity for Brisbane and Queensland. I’m very, very proud Queenslander.”
Former Socceroo and social equality advocate Craig Foster was among those shocked at the display, tweeting that Mr Coates had shot to the “top of the medal tally in misogyny”.
But in a statement later on Thursday, Mr Coates said his comments had “been completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room”.
“Absolutely I believe the Premier should come to the opening ceremony and she has accepted,” he said.
“I am thrilled about that. Attending the opening ceremony has always been her choice.
“My view has always been all three levels of government should come to the opening ceremony.
“The Premier and I have a long standing and very successful relationship
“We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way … those in doubt should ask her.”
The official opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics is on Friday night (Australian time). See more information here.