Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is probably the most recognizable man in the city. Unless of course, you’re from out of town and a little inebriated.
At the annual Panda Game Saturday between the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton University Ravens, Watson’s recognizability factor went out the window. A very happy fan got into the spirit by lifting the fella closest to him in a big bear hug — that fella just happened to be the mayor.
Allie Mousseau-Dempsey, 21, said she was just talking to some friends at TD Place Stadium when she turned around to find her boyfriend, Andy Andretta, with the mayor in his arms.
“The mayor was a solid couple of inches off the ground. And [Andy] had him in a strong hold. And we were like, “Andy, that’s our mayor. Put him down! That’s Jim Watson!”
Watson handled it “well,” Mousseau-Dempsey told HuffPost in an interview on Wednesday. “He was a little confused but I don’t think he really minded at all.”
Andretta, 22, is from the “very small town” of Lively, Ont., near Sudbury, and has been delighted by the attention since Mousseau-Dempsey tweeted the encounter, she said.
In an interview on “Ottawa Now,” Mousseau-Dempsey added that for Andretta, “that’s a very casual thing to do: just be friendly to absolutely everybody.”
Radio host Evan Solomon suggested that the move now be coined “The Full Watson.”
Watson has been on city council for almost two decades, with a stint as an Ontario MPP and cabinet minister in between.
Mousseau-Dempsey, who was born and raised in Ottawa, said she remembers Watson visiting her high school regularly and even pitching in to help her best friend with a math problem. She feels the weekend’s bear hug reflects the openness of her hometown.
“I feel like this type of thing wouldn’t have turned out the same way in Toronto if you had picked up the mayor of Toronto. I feel like it would have been a scandal as opposed to a fun, light-hearted thing.”
Watson’s alma mater is Carleton University but their Ravens fell to the U of O Gee-Gees by a score of 38 to 27 on Saturday. The Panda Game has been a tradition since 1955, with the winning team getting possession of a stuffed panda trophy named Pedro.
Pedro, Andy, and Jim appeared to have a great time. Hugs for everybody!