Thursday 13th March 2008

James McKaskill: IMO 2004 Greece Report

In reality the trip did not start in July, but rather back in January at the annual NZIMO training camp. The camp proceeded as normal, except for one difference: All of the previous year’s IMO team had left school and gone on to university. This meant that I would have a shot at getting into the team, as this left 6 open places (well in reality 4 since the reserves from last year were pretty much guaranteed entry). However Arkadii Slinko decided to do things slightly different, in that unlike usual where the team is announced at the camp, he decided to select an intermediate squad before he would announce the final team in April. Well I was selected and that was great and all, but so were 10 out of 18 or so at the camp. The follow on effect of this was that we had to work harder than usual during the coming months to assure our place on the team.

The next major event was of course the July camp at Grafton Hall, University of Auckland. Here the team and reserves undergo more training before the eventual departure to Greece. By training I of course am referring to the occasional piece of maths, but mainly just table tennis and pool practice. In fact we were required to do a photo with the dean of science. However he caught up with us while during a break, and the photos ended up looking like we were more of a table tennis team than a maths team.

After about 5 day at Grafton Hall, we ended up leaving for Greece. Thankfully Simon, our deputy team leader, did not require us to do maths on board the plane, as had happened with some previous teams (I have done maths on a plane before, and I must tell you that it was not fun in any sense of the word). Finally we came upon our first destination in Europe, Germany, where Simon, James, and I had the bright idea to stock up on German chocolate so as to keep our brains going for the next 2 weeks.

After spending a day in Athens, we headed out to the Greek Isle of Paros, which I must say was the highlight of the trip. Here we met up with the camera crew, who would be following us around for the rest of the trip. Also we got to experience a very distinct culture and way of life, that we later found out was hard to find in Athens, when touring around with 500 others. The two most memorable places were a monastery in the main city dating back a few hundred years, which really showed off Greek Orthodox, and one of the villages on the opposite side of the isle, whose twisting turns and unending narrow walkways gave us a glimpse into the people and their lifestyle. In fact there were many other very memorable places and although I have since forgotten most of their names, I can still see them quite vividly.

Orthodox church, Parikia

Ekatontapiliani church, Paros.

After a week or so of half study and half touring on the isle, we returned to Athens for the competition itself. I cant say I wasn’t nervous for the exam itself, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great time leading up to the exam and afterwards. We of course spent quite a lot of time right before the exam revising. However we did have some time off in which we met up mainly with the Irish (this may have become somewhat of a tradition, since the joint NZ-Irish training camp in 2000) and the British. We ended up playing quite a bit of cards, as well as some rather interesting incidents with our ball falling off the 20 story hotel we were in multiple times. After the exam we were bussed around to quite a few historic locales. However the sheer number of people meant it wasn’t as great as the places in Paros.

Overall I’d have to say that I greatly enjoyed the trip, especially meeting many new friends from all over the place, visiting a country I’d always wanted to, and of course we can’t forget the maths.