John Coates

Strong words ... John Coates Photo: Brendan Esposito

AUSTRALIA'S Olympic chief, John Coates, has put the presidents and chief executives of the country's sports federations on notice, revealing he suspected some were not giving their all to the London cause 18 months before the Games that ultimately produced Australia's worst gold medal haul in 20 years.

In a calmly delivered yet pointed assessment of the national team's results, the Australian Olympic Committee said: "I wouldn't point the finger at our athletes, I couldn't do that. I leave a question mark on whether the attitude and the ownership is as good as it could be in the management of some of some of the sports.

"Any corporation is only as good as its CEO or chairman and the direction that's coming from there."

Explaining that he was concerned enough to act 1 1/2 years ago after sensing a distinct lack of engagement from some chiefs of Olympic sports, Coates wrote to CEOs and presidents to "try to get them to take some ownership of what their objectives would be for these Games".

"What I was doing was just trying to make sure that they knew that their neck wasn't on the line but that they had to take some ownership," he said.

"They're largely being very, very well funded by the Australian Sports Commission, and with that comes responsibility.

"I was concerned, about 18 months out from these Games, about whether the sports themselves - the presidents and the executives of the sports, were taking enough ownership of the objectives that they'd set in those particular sports.

"I know some where the presidents follow every result internationally, and I'd get phone calls and we'd tic-tac, and then there were others who just seemed to be allowing it to happen. It may be fair for them to rely on very good high performance managers - and I'm not going to be specific here - but it has to come from the top."

Unashamed about the emphasis on winning Olympic gold rather than next best, Coates re-iterated his view that funding for Olympic sports in Australia is "adequate" and that more money would not necessarily mean more success.

Over the past four years a total of $336 million was provided by the Federal Government to support Australia's team of 410 athletes who competed in London.

"It can't just be funding when you understand that Great Britain spent 1.2 billion over four years, but so did France and so did Germany and got remarkably different results," Coates said.

"I'm absolutely certain that the sports have to look at themselves rather than look for more money."

Raising the example of rowing, Coates said New Zealand was clearly "doing something much better than we are" with less money. He also made special mention of Peter Conde, formerly of Boston Consulting, who formulated Yachting Australia's gold medal plan that ultimately produced three gold medals and one silver in London after the unit won none at all in Athens in 2004.

Not since Barcelona, when the team came 10th overall with 27 medals, including seven gold, has Australia finished outside the top seven nations on the medal tally. Coates lamented that Australia had won medals in only 11 sports in London - a drop from 14 in Beijing in 2008 - which he termed "less than optimal".

The Rio Olympics in 2016 would be a "very, very difficult" for Australia, Coates said, but he nominated a rollcall of athletes including diver Brittany Broben, basketballer Liz Cambage, 400m runner Steve Solomon, marathon runner Jess Trengove, pentathlete Chloe Esposito and rower Kim Crow who should provide reassurance that a top five finish on the medal table remained a realistic goal.

Coates said he had sent chairman of London's organising committee, Seb Coe, a letter of congratulations for staging such a successful 30th Olympics. But he stopped short, given his own role as an IOC boss helping with the planning, at declaring the London Games better than Sydney's.