SYDNEY (Reuters) – The culture of the beleaguered Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) will not change while John Coates remains its president, according to former chief executive Fiona De Jong.
De Jong left the AOC last year amid claims of bullying against one of Coates’ key executives, while an independent review released on Wednesday painted a less than rosy picture of the organization.
Staff described the organization as “dysfunctional” and had witnessed “‘deceitful’, ‘two-faced’, ‘egotistic’ and/or ‘belligerent'” behavior from senior staff.
De Jong told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Sunday the findings of the report were consistent with her experience while running the organization and she had tried to change its culture but was stymied by Coates.
“Unfortunately I would say there was no appetite for meaningful change from the very top of the organization,” she told the ABC, before confirming she was referring to Coates.
“I worked like hell to try to change the culture that I inherited and I lost count of the number of initiatives I tried to introduce and the efforts I went to try to address that.
“As anyone who has ever tried to change the culture within an organization would know it takes a collective will to do so and in my experience that didn’t exist.
“The times when I raised issues about behavior it was met with a response that some individuals were too important to lose and in fact my authority over them was removed.”
Coates fronted a media conference on Wednesday when the report was released and said it had exonerated him personally, while the senior leaders who were criticized in it had since left the AOC.
De Jong, however, said that Coates set the culture within the organization and had to shoulder his share of the blame, while he also needed to take a more hands on approach to earn his A$700,000 ($555,310) salary.
“I find it disappointing and difficult to accept that the President can exclude himself from any responsibility for the culture of an organization over which he has presided for 27 years,” she said.
“He is an executive president and is required to be actively involved in the running of the organization.
“He has… defended, his executive presidency’s salary in excess of A$700,000. If he’s willing to be paid as an executive president one would suggest that there ought to be responsibilities that go with that.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O’Brien