SYDNEY - Australian Olympic chief John Coates has described Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision not to attend the London Games as “a disappointment to the team,” according to a report.
“I thought London would be an absolute must for Julia, so I’m disappointed,” Coates told The Sunday Age.
“It’s a disappointment to us. It will be a disappointment to our team.”
Coates, a member of the International Olympic Committee, could not be reached for comment but he reportedly told the Melbourne newspaper it was important Gillard attend the event, expected to draw a range of world leaders.
“You’ll find every one of the European heads — Merkel, Sarkozy, Putin — they will all be there,” the Australian Olympic Committee president was quoted as saying.
But Gillard’s office said Australian prime ministers rarely attended the Olympics.
“This year, as has happened in the past, the prime minister will be represented by the sports minister,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games in 2008 despite calls by activists for world leaders to boycott it to protest China’s human rights record and crackdown on dissent in Tibet.
“Rudd got it,” Coates said. “I saw him chatting away to all these people and it was a great opportunity.”
Gillard will be at the G20 leaders meeting and the UN Sustainable Development Conference at the time and will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan at the Games dinner.