November 29, 2023

IOC expresses deep sorrow over death of IOC Honorary Member Phillip Walter Coles, AM


28 Jan 2023 – It is with profound sadness that the IOC has learnt of the death of Phillip Walter Coles, at the age of 91.

Mr Coles represented Australia in canoe sprint at three editions of the Olympic Games – Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, where he captained the team, and Mexico City 1968.

He devoted his entire life to the Olympic Movement in Australia and beyond. In 1973, he became a member of the Executive Board of the Australian Olympic Committee, and was one of the Foundation members of the Executive Board of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) in 1981.

Upon learning of his death, IOC President Thomas Bach said:  “Phil Coles was a man who always cared about the athletes in all his different functions. Their interests were always in his mind and in his heart. He was key to getting an Australian Olympic Team to the Olympic Games Moscow 1980 against all requests for a boycott. It made him proud for the rest of his life to have led these athletes into the Olympic Stadium. His love for the Olympic Games was at the centre of his life. Personally, I have lost a wonderful friend with whom I shared so many moments of our Olympic lives. I will never forget this heartwarming friendliness and his sense of humour. My thoughts are with his beloved Patricia and all his family and many friends.” 

Elected as an IOC Member in 1982, Mr Coles contributed actively to a wide range of IOC commissions, including Radio and Television, Joint Mass Media, Olympic Solidarity, Study and Evaluation for the Preparation of the Winter Olympic Games, Sport for All, New Sources of Financing and Marketing, and the Working Group on the Olympic Programme and the Olympic Programme Commission. He had been an IOC Honorary Member since 2012.

As a driving force behind the project to bring the Olympic Games to his native Australia, he served as Vice-President and Director of the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games Sydney 2000 between 1993 and 1999.

His dedication to sport and promoting the Olympic values was recognised by a number of distinctions he received over the course of his life. In the 1983 Queen’s Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to sport, and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2000. He received the Olympic Order for his distinguished contribution to the Olympic Movement in 2012.

In the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, a number of items of Mr Coles are kept for exhibitions. He has donated the Australian delegation tracksuit and uniform that he wore at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 as well as two replicas of the canoes with which he competed at the Games.

The IOC expresses its deepest condolences to his family and friends. As a mark of respect, the Olympic flag will be flown at half-mast at Olympic House in Lausanne for three days.

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