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Sutcliffe defends trade mission to U.K. after criticism over participation in London Marathon


Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is responding to criticism surrounding an upcoming trade mission to London, England where he will also be running in the London Marathon.

Sutcliffe insisted at a media availability after Wednesday's city council meeting that any expenses related to the marathon will be paid for out of his own pocket.

"There's a huge opportunity here to promote Ottawa as a tourist destination," Sutcliffe told reporters.

"Throughout the history of Ottawa, we have had these missions like this before, previous mayors have gone to places like Beijing and the Netherlands."

The mayor received some criticism on social media after users pointed out that Sutcliffe had also run at other international races last year.

"Really weird that all the Mayor's all-expenses-paid international 'tourism missions' happen at the same time as the marathons he wants to run in," said Horizon Ottawa coordinator Sam Hersh on social media.

On Tuesday, Sutcliffe posted to social media that he would join officials from Ottawa Tourism and Invest Ottawa for a "quick but busy and impactful trip" for four days later this month.

Ottawa Tourism tells CTV News Ottawa it invited Sutcliffe on the trip, "which will allow for him to engage directly with key stakeholders through targeted meetings and networking opportunities."

Ottawa Tourism will also be paying for Sutcliffe's travel and accommodation expenses.

Sutcliffe says he made the decision to bid for a spot in the marathon last year after Ottawa Tourism invited him to an annual sports tourism conference in London this month.

Sutcliffe also joined Ottawa Tourism on another trade mission to Paris last June.

The mayor says he has not spoken to the ethics commissioner regarding his participation in the marathon and does not see a need for it.

"It’s a great return for the city if we're able to reach some deals and land some events," he said.

"I run every single day, so on this trip to London, I'm going to run every day. There happens to be a marathon going on while I'm there, so instead of running from my hotel and running around the street of London myself, I entered the London marathon."

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe crossing the finish line at the Ottawa Marathon. May 28, 2023. (Jackie Perez/CTV News Ottawa)Ottawa Tourism said that its focus for the trip is to highlight Ottawa's strength as a destination to business and leisure travellers.

"This year's mission to the UK, Ottawa’s top overseas market, will last 4 days and 3 nights and aims to provide opportunities for our delegation to join forces and meet with new and existing contacts to encourage business in our destination, from meetings and conventions to major events, tour operators, and beyond," Ottawa Tourism said.

Sutcliffe is an avid runner, completing 40 marathons since 2004. Sutcliffe ran in the Berlin Marathon last September, finishing in a time of 3:51:42. He has been taking photos of different parts of the city that he shoots during his runs in recent weeks.

The London Marathon is set for April 21, and is the second-largest annual road race in the UK. More than 48,000 runners participated in the run last year.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Josh Pringle Top Stories

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