Commentator who went viral in Uganda enjoys ‘incredible’ tour of country
A sports commentator who went viral in Uganda after complimenting the country during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has enjoyed an “incredible, surprising, uplifting, humbling” all-expenses-paid tour of the African nation.
Rob Walker, 47, from the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, is well known for his coverage of snooker tournaments as well as the Olympics, Paralympics and Invictus games.
It was as he commentated on the Ugandan athlete Peruth Chemutai collecting her gold medal for the women’s 3,000m steeplechase in Tokyo, however, that his relationship with Uganda changed forever, saying: “By the way, if you’ve never been to Uganda, let me tell you, it’s one of the most beautiful, friendly countries you could ever wish to visit.
“This moment will have a significance in their country that transcends the boundaries of sport.”
Walker went viral in Uganda as a result, and received “thousands and thousands” of messages asking him who he was, what his connection to Uganda was, and why he was so passionate about the country.
He also commentated on Ugandan runner Joshua Cheptegei winning the 10,000 metres at the World Championships and Jacob Kiplimo winning two medals at the Commonwealth Games – both events being broadcast live in Uganda.
The Ugandan Tourism Board (UTB) responded by arranging for Mr Walker to go on an all-expenses paid trip to their country in February this year.
Walker spent 11 days in the east African country and told the PA news agency it was “the most incredible, surprising, uplifting, humbling experience I’ve ever had in nearly 25 years of travelling the world covering sport”.
He added: “I’ve never been treated like that. I’ve never been made to feel so welcome, so special. I mean, I basically just went on an 11-day whirlwind tour of the country. It was insane.”
During the trip, Mr Walker spoke to locals near Murchison Falls, met the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and travelled on his helicopter to various parts of the country, as well as meeting a mountain gorilla.
“It was like being in a film and I was going: ‘Is this actually happening to me?’” he said.
“I’ve ended up with a little bit of a platform and an opportunity to kind of dispel some out-of-date myths about Uganda specifically, I’ve literally never been anywhere friendlier than Uganda.
“There’s still so much rubbish that you read and see about the way the African continent is portrayed internationally in the media, it’s ludicrous, so it’s very important for people who go there regularly – like me – to shout about it.
“I believe the whole reason that I went viral in Uganda and the reason that they seem to have sort of taken me to their heart, is the fact that my passion for their country was pure.”
Mr Walker still works with the country, and is now part of a competition panel in Uganda to help find new local TV commentators.
The competition will be televised at the end of 2023 on Ugandan TV – with the winners awarded a 12-month scholarship and selected to be commentators at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.