Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe defends marathon entry on London mission

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He is an avid runner who has 40 marathons under his belt. He also travelled to Germany last September to run the Berlin Marathon at his own expense.

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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is defending his decision to run the London Marathon later this month when he visits the United Kingdom on an Ottawa Tourism trade mission.

Sutcliffe posted about the “quick, but busy and impactful trip” Tuesday on the social media site X, saying he would join Ottawa Tourism and Invest Ottawa in “hosting a series of events, promoting tourism to Ottawa, meeting with companies that do business in Ottawa, marketing Ottawa Race Weekend, and possibly signing a deal or two.”

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He also said he would run in the London Marathon on Sunday, April 21. The SportsPro Conference runs April 23-24 at the Kia Oval in London.

The mayor’s post sparked a pointed response online.

You know that this looks sketchy as anything, right? You *must* know how tremendously bad the optics are here, because this sure looks corrupt and opportunistic,” one user wrote.

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Another said the mayor wasn’t being paid to run marathons.

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Asked about the trip by reporters after Wednesday’s council meeting, Sutcliffe said that the entire trip would be “at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers” and that he was paying the race entry fee and any costs associated with the marathon.

Sutcliffe attended a different conference last year in Paris at the request of Ottawa Tourism.

“And at that time Ottawa Tourism said, ‘We should do more of this.’ And they indicated that they intended to go to a very specific event that takes place every April and that they’ve been to before. They invited me to join them on that mission and I said yes,” Sutcliffe said.

Some time later, Sutcliffe said, he noticed the conference coincided with the London Marathon and he was able to secure an entry.

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“There’s a huge opportunity here to promote Ottawa as a tourist destination and a destination for business,” he told reporters.

Ottawa Tourism will host a reception at the SportPro conference.

“It’s a big event. They go every year,” he said. “Everyone will be there. This is a big thing for (Ottawa Tourism) to attract sports events like rugby and the world juniors (hockey tournament). This is a big priority for them now.”

Sutcliffe said Ottawa mayors had regularly travelled overseas on such missions.

“Previous mayors have gone to places like Beijing and the Netherlands. There’s a great return for the city if we’re able to secure some deals and land some events,” Sutcliffe said. “This is happening at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers and Ottawa Tourism sees it as a priority within their budget to have a mission of this nature and there’s value in having the mayor of Ottawa on this trip, as I was last year on the trip to Paris.”

Although Ottawa Tourism used to receive money from the city — $1.5 million annually from the major events fund — it is now funded directly through a one per cent increase on hotel room levies.

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Sutcliffe is an avid runner who has 40 marathons under his belt. He travelled to Germany last September to run the Berlin Marathon at his own expense.

“I don’t need someone else to pay for my marathons,” he said. “I’ve run 40 marathons and I’m fortunate enough that I’ve always been able to pay my own way. I didn’t take this job to get a bunch of free trips.”

Sutcliffe said he ran every day anyway.

“On this trip to London, I’m going to run every single day. There happens to be a marathon going on when I’m there, so, instead of running from my hotel and running around the streets of London, I entered the London Marathon and I’ll be participating in the London Marathon at my own expense. I’ll be running either way,” he said.

This newspaper reached out to Ottawa Tourism for comment, but had not received a response by deadline.

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