Sunday 16th March 2008

Jingcheng Bian: IMO 2006 Slovenia Report

I participated in the 47th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for me, the event itself was well-organized, and my trip organized by the New Zealand Mathematical Olympiad Committee (NZMOC) was also very exciting.

Prior to departure, the team and the reserve gathered up in Grafton Hall in Auckland for a training camp of 4 days. During this training camp, we did mock tests, each consisting of 4 problems, lasting about 4 hours, in the mornings, and had lectures on one of the specific subjects, which include algebra, geometry, number theory and combinatorics, in the afternoons.

Before going to Ljubljana for the competition, we spent about half of a week in Heidelberg, Germany. The purpose was for us to get out of the jet-lag, and to further prepare for the IMO. We stayed in a youth hostel, 20 minutes from the city centre of Heidelberg. During our stay, we did mock tests each morning, followed by a quick discussion, and sightseeing after lunch. Heidelberg was small but beautiful, with the oldest castle in Germany.

We arrived in Ljubljana on 10th July. We received a warm welcome from our guide, Teja, and quickly settled down. We stayed in a dormitory owned by a local high school, and the facilities were rather impressive. There was a table tennis room, TV room, gym, and of course, lots of free space in the dining room for a game of cards.

On the 12th and 13th we have two four-and-a-half hour exams between 8:30am and 1pm. Two of our team members sat their exam in a different exam hall, but my exam hall was a gym filled with perfectly aligned tables and chairs. I felt calmer than I expected when I sat down in front of my table. On the table was a folder containing the question sheet, about 20 pages of blank paper, food, water, and four cards, each indicating “water”, “toilet”, “more paper” and “help” respectively. Whenever I needed something, I would raise the corresponding card, and then the supervisor would come over.

After the exam finished, Robin, our deputy team leader, was waiting for us outside the exam halls. We discussed briefly about how we did, and then headed to lunch. Although I prepared for it, 4.5 hours of hard thinking was quite consuming on my body, and despite the food and water, I felt really tired when I stood up from my seat.

Immediately after the second exam was over, the sports tournaments began. Our first soccer game was against Trinidad and Tobago, and we won relatively easily. However in our second match, we lost narrowly against Croatia, who turned out to be the champion of the tournament.

On the 14th we went on our first excursion. First we went to Primorska to visit the biggest limestone cave in Slovenia, and it was also the biggest cave I’ve seen. Later, we went for a swim in Portorož, where our team leader, Michael was staying. He informed us of the process of the coordination, and then we headed to Piran, a beautiful sea-side town. The streets and the houses still possessed the style from medieval times. Later I went onto a bell tower of a church and the view was just magnificent. On the bus, our guide told us a lot about the Slovenian culture, and combined with the folk’s music, it was a unique experience.

We went on another excursion on 16th July, this time to the centre I participated in the 47th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for me, the event itself was well-organized, and my trip organized by the New Zealand Mathematical Olympiad Committee (NZMOC) was also very exciting.

Prior to departure, the team and the reserve gathered up in Grafton Hall in Auckland for a training camp of 4 days. During this training camp, we did mock tests, each consisting of 4 problems, lasting about 4 hours, in the mornings, and had lectures on one of the specific subjects, which include algebra, geometry, number theory and combinatorics, in the afternoons.

Before going to Ljubljana for the competition, we spent about half of a week in Heidelberg, Germany. The purpose was for us to get out of the jet-lag, and to further prepare for the IMO. We stayed in a youth hostel, 20 minutes from the city centre of Heidelberg. During our stay, we did mock tests each morning, followed by a quick discussion, and sightseeing after lunch. Heidelberg was small but beautiful, with the oldest castle in Germany.

We arrived in Ljubljana on 10th July. We received a warm welcome from our guide, Teja, and quickly settled down. We stayed in a dormitory owned by a local high school, and the facilities were rather impressive. There was a table tennis room, TV room, gym, and of course, lots of free space in the dining room for a game of cards.

On the 12th and 13th we have two four-and-a-half hour exams between 8:30am and 1pm. Two of our team members sat their exam in a different exam hall, but my exam hall was a gym filled with perfectly aligned tables and chairs. I felt calmer than I expected when I sat down in front of my table. On the table was a folder containing the question sheet, about 20 pages of blank paper, food, water, and four cards, each indicating “water”, “toilet”, “more paper” and “help” respectively. Whenever I needed something, I would raise the corresponding card, and then the supervisor would come over.

After the exam finished, Robin, our deputy team leader, was waiting for us outside the exam halls. We discussed briefly about how we did, and then headed to lunch. Although I prepared for it, 4.5 hours of hard thinking was quite consuming on my body, and despite the food and water, I felt really tired when I stood up from my seat.

Immediately after the second exam was over, the sports tournaments began. Our first soccer game was against Trinidad and Tobago, and we won relatively easily. However in our second match, we lost narrowly against Croatia, who turned out to be the champion of the tournament.

On the 14th we went on our first excursion. First we went to Primorska to visit the biggest limestone cave in Slovenia, and it was also the biggest cave I’ve seen. Later, we went for a swim in Portorož, where our team leader, Michael was staying. He informed us of the process of the coordination, and then we headed to Piran, a beautiful sea-side town. The streets and the houses still possessed the style from medieval times. Later I went onto a bell tower of a church and the view was just magnificent. On the bus, our guide told us a lot about the Slovenian culture, and combined with the folk’s music, it was a unique experience.

We went on another excursion on 16th July, this time to the centre of Slovenia. We visited a national park in Gorenjska. The country side in Slovenia is extremely similar to New Zealand’s, except that the forests are not as dense. According to our guide, the forest coverage in Slovenia is about 80%, the third highest in the world. This is easily proven by what we saw on our flight. We then went to Bled, a lake with a tiny island in the middle of it. If we came in winter, when the lake’s surface is frozen, we could walk to the island, which consists only of a church and nothing else.

Without warning, the last day of the IMO came. The closing ceremony started at 4 pm. Rupert and James performed exceptionally well and each scored a bronze medal for New Zealand, while Martin was 1 point away from the cut-off. For the rest of the evening, after we returned from the banquet which followed the closing ceremony, we exchanged souvenirs with almost every other team.

That was the first time I participated in an IMO, and to be honest I was very impressed. The competition was challenging, the contestants and guides were very friendly, our accommodation was comfortable, and Ljubljana was a wonderful city. This year’s IMO was a unique and unforgettable experience to me, and I have set my goal to score a medal at the next IMO in Vietnam.

I would like to thank NZMOC for organizing this trip for us, Michael Albert and Robin Christian for fighting hard with the coordinators to gain me marks on my incomplete solutions, and of course, the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing me with sponsorship. Thank you.of Slovenia. We visited a national park in Gorenjska. The country side in Slovenia is extremely similar to New Zealand’s, except that the forests are not as dense. According to our guide, the forest coverage in Slovenia is about 80%, the third highest in the world. This is easily proven by what we saw on our flight. We then went to Bled, a lake with a tiny island in the middle of it. If we came in winter, when the lake’s surface is frozen, we could walk to the island, which consists only of a church and nothing else.

Without warning, the last day of the IMO came. The closing ceremony started at 4 pm. Rupert and James performed exceptionally well and each scored a bronze medal for New Zealand, while Martin was 1 point away from the cut-off. For the rest of the evening, after we returned from the banquet which followed the closing ceremony, we exchanged souvenirs with almost every other team.

That was the first time I participated in an IMO, and to be honest I was very impressed. The competition was challenging, the contestants and guides were very friendly, our accommodation was comfortable, and Ljubljana was a wonderful city. This year’s IMO was a unique and unforgettable experience to me, and I have set my goal to score a medal at the next IMO in Vietnam.

I would like to thank NZMOC for organizing this trip for us, Michael Albert and Robin Christian for fighting hard with the coordinators to gain me marks on my incomplete solutions, and of course, the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing me with sponsorship. Thank you.