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Olympic Committee Vows To Change After Review Reveals A Workplace Of Fear And Favouritism

The 64-page report released Thursday is a massive smear on the AOC's culture.

24/08/2017 12:13 PM AEST | Updated 24/08/2017 1:19 PM AEST
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Kitty Chiller and Mike Tancred in the lead-up to Rio 2016.

The Australian Olympic Committee says it will adopt all 17 recommendations of the Independent Cultural Review into its workplace culture, conducted by independent, not-for-profit group The Ethics Centre.

The review, which was commissioned in May after allegations of bullying, intimidation and a poor overall workplace culture within the AOC, shone light on a workplace which often bore no resemblance to the values traditionally associated with the Olympic movement.

The review said:

While staff and stakeholders hold the AOC in high regard and express immense pride in what the organisation has achieved over the years, they describe the organisation as being out of step -- with both their ideals and minimum expectations for a modern organisation.

Instead of seeing the organisation as celebrating the best of the Olympic ideals, staff and stakeholders speak of challenges and difficulties that stem from a culture that is not aligned with the ideals that the organisation aspires to uphold.

AOC staff were questioned on the organisation's key corporate values of leadership, excellence, mateship and resilience. The results were damning to say the least.

"Staff cited widespread dissatisfaction with examples of behaviour witnessed or heard about that showed leaders acting individualistically, as driven by self-interest or ego, or undermining each other overtly, or behind closed doors."

Other negative examples of workplace culture which staff noted, included:

  • Being unfairly overlooked for duty at the Olympic Games and not being told why;
  • Public shaming for minor mistakes while the errors of more senior staff were ignored
  • Favouritism and unfair treatment;
  • Respect for immediate supervisors but a widespread distrust of top level managers;
  • The inability to address workplace issues for fear of backlash;
  • A lack of clarity about their roles.

The seeds of this review were sown in April this year, ahead of the Australian Olympic Committee presidency campaign which incumbent John Coates won, when it became clear that the AOC had a culture problem.

FABRICE COFFRINI via Getty Images

Some argued that the timing of the revelations was a deliberate smear against Coates and his inner circle. But it is now clear that there was fire behind the smoke. Bullying, blackmail and intimidation were all alleged by AOC staffers in April, including by former CEO Fiona de Jong.

Much of the bad behaviour was attributed to Mike Tancred, the AOC's long-serving communications chief and a Coates loyalist. Tancred stood down, but was reinstated in late May. He was severely reprimanded for his conduct and apologised to de Jong.

Tancred and others in the AOC will have no choice but to change the way they operate now, given AOC CEO Matt Carroll's full support for the 17 changes suggested in the review. Carroll used the word "reset" numerous times in his response to the report, in the context of resetting the AOC's culture, and said he believed the organisation was ready to change.

"Importantly the Review found a large measure of cautious optimism about the organisation and its future culture," Carroll said.

"We have passionate and dedicated staff working together to support our athletes, sports and Olympic Teams. This gives me strong belief in the possibilities to be unlocked through a renewal of our leadership model and making a commitment to strive to make the AOC the best of its kind."

You can read the full review here.

Meanwhile AOC vice-president Ian Chesterman and long-serving sports administrator will replace Kitty Chiller as the Chef de Mission to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Chesterman is a popular figure, especially in the winter sports community, who is seen by some as less abrasive than Chiller. Prior to Tokyo, he will lead the Australian team for a record 6th time at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea, which are now less than six months away.

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