Coates, 64, has been FISA's Continental Representative for Oceania since 1992 and through this role he became part of the FISA Council. Now a Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Coates decided it was time to retire from the FISA Council.

FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland commended Coates's contribution to rowing. “We will miss John’s contribution in the FISA Council meetings and we would like to express our sincere gratitude on behalf of FISA for all the contributions and support he has shown our great sport.”

In Rowing Australia's press release Coates said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my 22 years with FISA and the friendships I have made along the way. The obvious highlights for me being the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand, and I am, of course, indebted to FISA’s Life Honorary President Denis Oswald for recommending me for the role.

“I am extremely passionate about the sport of rowing and will continue to be so with regards to promoting, developing and protecting it.”

Involvement in sporting organisations has been longstanding for Coates. He became president of the Australian Olympic Committee in 1991, a position he continues to hold. Through this time Coates was one of the leading figures in the bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games and subsequently was involved at the highest level in staging the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. His role in the Sydney Olympics earned him the FISA Medal of Honour.

In 2001 Coates became an IOC member followed in 2009 by becoming an Executive Board member.  Last year he was elected an IOC Vice-President and, in one of new IOC president Thomas Bach's first appointments , Coates was named as Chair of the Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Coates's rowing interest began as a high school coxswain. He then coached before becoming president and then chairman of Rowing Australia's former organisation, the Australian Amateur Rowing Council.

Coates recently helped establish the Oceania Rowing Confederation which aims to strengthen the sport of rowing in the Pacific.