Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic Games celebrations have taken an awkward turn with Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates ordering Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to change her plans and attend Tokyo’s opening ceremony.
After controversially flying to Japan with Brisbane mayor Adrian Schrinner and Australian sports minister Richard Colbeck to accept the hosting duties, Palaszczuk had planned to watch the festivities from her hotel room on Friday evening.
But Coates set the trio straight in a bizarre press conference exchange after Brisbane was officially confirmed as the third Australian city to be granted hosting rights.
“You are going to the opening ceremony … as I understand, there will be an opening and closing ceremony in 2032 and all of you are going to get along there and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony, so none of you are staying behind and hiding in your rooms, alright?” Coates said.
“You’ve never been to the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games, have you? You don’t know the protocols, I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here.
“The opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75 million to $100 million, it’s a major exercise for any organising committee.
“It puts a stamp on the Games.”
Palaszczuk sat in silence during Coates’ address, before saying she didn’t want to offend anyone.
Former Socceroo and social equality advocate Craig Foster tweeted Coates had shot to the “top of the medal tally in misogyny”, but the Premier attempted to play down the awkward back-and-forth on ABC News Breakfast on Thursday.
“My understanding is now that there is an expectation by both himself (Coates) as the head of the AOC and vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and Thomas Bach, the president (now that Brisbane has won the bid),” she said.
“If we didn’t have John Coates, this would not have happened.
“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.”
At Thursday’s media briefing from Tokyo, Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman said the pair “have a great respect for each other” but admitted he hadn’t seen the exchange.
“Can I just say they know each other very well … and I know that the premier is completely capable of making up her own mind about anything she wants to do as well,” he said.
Tokyo is facing a staggering financial loss with fans locked out and many of the Japanese population against the Games being staged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coates said many athletes still viewed the Games as the pinnacle of their sporting careers and Tokyo may “rate better on television in Australia than the Sydney Games”.
Organisers are hopeful the Brisbane Games will be cost-neutral, meaning no additional expense for taxpayers beyond a $4.5 billion budget covered by ticket sales, sponsorship and the IOC.
“This is ultimately a win for every single Queenslander,” Palaszczuk, who forecast $17 billion of economic benefit, said.
“This is going to set Queensland up for a golden age.
“It’s going to be a decade worth of investment. It is going to be a catalyst for change, opportunity … this is our moment to shine.”