winning at the Olympics is not just via sports medals: viva Uganda!

OKAY, SO Uganda has not yet gotten onto the medals list at the Rio Olympics 2016, but I remain as optimistic as the rest of you who keep tuning in to see whether any of our swimmers or athletes or boxers make their way onto the podium.

It certainly COULD happen, as Stephen Kiprotich so soundly showed us back in

Photo by Pierre-Selim Huard ( 


Even back then, before he incredibly ran that race to the finish, we were casting aspersions onto ourselves and blasting Uganda left, right and centre. The day before that race, on a Saturday, I had sat down with a couple of highly pessimistic friends whose background was quite similar to my own but who consistently fail to see the good happenings in many corners of our country.
Surprisingly, the two gentlemen in question are raising about four children each right here in this very same country. Luckily for the children in question, the negativity of their fathers appears not to have hindered the children much – two of them are excellent sportsmen on a national level and one has even secured a scholarship to a prestigious foreign school because of his outstanding aptitude and attitude.
Every evening these days, I tune into the Olympics coverage and look out for the Ugandan participants, believing that my own children will share my optimism that we might see the flag colours on that podium.
But even when we don’t see those heights, we always declare excitedly when we catch a glimpse of that flag on the international stage at Rio De Janeiro.
This week we saw a Ugandan, Dr. Donald Rukare, placing a medal round the neck of the USA’s Gold Medalist Lilly King. Don is President of the Uganda Swimming Federation, Vice President of the Africa Swimming Federation, as well as a lawyer – which experience came in handy when the world needed to appoint another arbitrator at the International Court of Arbitration for Sports, based in Switzerland.
Photo by Muzima Kaheru
This Ugandan was chosen.
So, you see, watching the Olympics points to much more than the athletic performance and medals that accrue – though we are still waiting hopefully for those.
During the opening ceremony my living room erupted when the Ugandan team showed up after a long alphabetical wait, and one of the children mentioned how smart the Ugandan contingent were.
I was pleasantly alerted, off a website run by the US-based Ronnie Mayanja (another Ugandan who tries to underscore the compatriots who hold this country flag up high) that the Canadian press shared the same view. Canada’s Globe and Mail (some said even the Mail & Guardian) listed the Ugandan uniforms among “The Seven Boldest Uniforms from the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony’ – a flash event at which such accolades are priceless!
In fact, for most countries the participation at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is managed by the Tourism or Investment Promotion body, rather than the Sports or Olympics Committees.
See, the Opening Ceremony is watched by almost everyone who watches the Olympics, whereas the individual events (save for Usain Bolt and, possibly Kiprotich breaking that tape at the end of the Marathon…) are watched by fewer people each.
The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony reportedly recorded 600million viewers that night/day, and many more after that of course.
Thanks to Allan Raphael Kasule, we stood out at the Opening Ceremony AND made good headlines! That young man runs K. Rafael Designs (I think it’s called) and was behind the bold look of the athletes. If only, one can’t avoid thinking, he had been contacted by the people who procured jackets for Parliament a few months ago…
David Gray of Reuters
Photo by David Gray of Reuters (copied)
So Allan Raphael Kasule has shown our children more opportunities that they can shine at, as Ugandans for Uganda, besides (on top of) athletics, while also giving us all a platform to use to sell more of Uganda; just because of his designs, imagine how many other Ugandan designers are going to be contacted by some of the hundreds of millions of viewers who saw the designs and thought, “Wow! Uganda…!”
Which imagination is what we need to apply to all these events and our participation there.
We shouldn’t send only athletes to such events; we should have comedians to make their way onto stages there to draw laughter, costumed fans to cheer wildly during the most viewed sports, flashing postcards with tourism-related images every time the camera sweeps by, business people to invite the likes of Usain Bolt to headline an athletics academy somewhere in Kapchorwa or Kabale…like that, like that.
The Olympics is such a big sporting event because it provides the largest number of marketing opportunities over the weeks it is staged, and we should learn how to get into that action well in advance – not just two days before it begins!
As we watch the rest of the show and wait to celebrate our victories there (including the Rukare and Kasule ones), let’s plan for 2020.
Viva Uganda!