The International Olympic Committee could lose one of its most influential officials when vice president John Coates faces the first challenge in almost three decades to his leadership in Australia.

Coates, who has been president of the Australian Olympic Committee for 27 years and who heads the IOC's coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Games, is up for election against Danni Roche in a secret ballot at the AOC's annual general meeting on Saturday in Sydney.

Roche, a 1996 Olympic field hockey gold medalist, has offered to work for free and promised to direct more funding to athletes. Her pledge comes during an often acrimonious campaign which has brought up divisions within the Australian Olympic community.

The IOC has said Coates would lose his senior international positions under current regulations if he does not retain the Australian role.

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On Wednesday, Coates and Roche used the country's leading business newspaper " the Australian Financial Review " to promote their causes.

Coates said the sound financial position of the AOC, and his strong leadership of it, make him the candidate best suited to the job.

"We are welcome at the highest levels of international deliberations," Coates wrote in a column. "We speak with authority on Olympic bids and selection processes, on gender equality, on protecting clean athletes, on models for reducing the cost of Olympic venues and on relationships with sponsors and the media.

"And when the time comes for Australia to again step forward and ask to be considered to host the greatest event on earth, our confidence, expertise and wisdom will hold us in good stead."

Australia has twice hosted the Summer Games " in 1956 in Melbourne and at Sydney in 2000, which then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch called "the best Olympic Games ever."

But Coates' leadership has been questioned in recent weeks amid accusations of bullying within the organization. His long-time media director, Mike Tancred, stood down from his duties pending an investigation.

Tancred has denied the bullying allegations made by former AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong, but said last week he would step aside until the matter was resolved.

To add to the controversy, Coates has feuded over the past year with Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie over government funding. In February, Coates was quoted by Fairfax Media as using a crude vulgarity to refer to Wylie after refusing to shake hands at a track and field meet.

The Coates-Roche vote has divided high-profile former athletes and officials. Among those, beach volleyball gold medalist Natalie Cook has gone on record as supporting Coates, while 1983 America's Cup-winning yachtsman John Bertrand, now head of Swimming Australia, said Roche deserved a shot at the presidency.

In her published campaign platform, Roche said she will forgo Coates' yearly remuneration of 750,000 Australian dollars ($565,000) and will propose a 100,000 Australian dollars ($75,000) salary package for the president " which she would waive for the entirety of her term " to illustrate her commitment to the funding of athletes.

"When sports can't invest in their future, the risk of losing talented athletes to another sport, or to sport altogether, is real," she wrote on Wednesday.

Roche is upset that she will not be allowed to address Saturday's meeting, although Coates will do so while presenting his annual report.

Roche's supporters have also complained that the IOC issued a letter to Coates saying any loss of Coates' presidency in Australia would see him be removed from his IOC duties, even if he was given an honorary presidency.

Supporters for Roche have complained that the release of that information could have an impact on the election, suggesting that Coates' loss in the election could reduce Australia's status on the international Olympic stage.

The idea of the IOC amending its own rules in the future to accommodate Coates in his international positions hasn't been completely ruled out.