The Sixtieth Mathematical Oympiad: A Runners Life
Background on the IMO
The International Mathematical Olympiad is a prestigious annual Mathematics competition held in varying host countries every year. Students from across the globe congeregate for a week of mathematical problems and fun. Before all of the fun, leaders collect from each participating country and set the papers for the year. In 2019, the host country was the United Kingdom and the leaders congregated in Bath.
So 110 leaders congregated in a conference room with all their paddles, ready to discuss this years Shortlist; but how were they to hear each other?! Thats where I come in, along with Max Smith, we added the noise to the Jury Meetings.
After leaving the sleepy cornish fishing villages in the morning, I got onto my last train, this is where I’d unknowingly be spotted by the first IMO goers, having my lunch and perusing my copy of Priestley’s Complex Analysis, I was eyed by a man, whom I’d soon find out to be the South African delegate, but before I knew it my train pulled up to Newport Station. Luckily, knowing South Wales quite well after having grown up here for half of my life, the other down in Cornwall, I set about getting to the Bus Station.
After arriving at the Bus Station, I found that google maps was correct about the bus I was to catch, but not the time, so I had my first of many cups of tea and sat down and waited. Soon enough an elderly couple came and sat next to me. I asked whether they were also asking for the 73 bus, they said yes. I wasnt a regular so I was of great interest to all the people on the bus, the Celtic Manor doesnt have many patrons by bus then, I thought. Everybody was extremely kind, especially after my minor freak over the bus only taking exact change, seriously who has exact change for £1.87, but I got to Celtic Manor. Unfortunately, the bus was the easy bit.
I came to a hill that was like a vertical slope, I struggled up with my two bags, tired already. I know I’m a runner but I expected my first challenge to be flat piece of land! After treversing the vertical slope, I came to the entrance and met David, checked in and waited for Adam to meet me and tell me when he wanted me first. I soon met Max, he was quiet but extremely nice, it averaged us out, as sometimes I can be a bit too loud. We were needed at 2000 hours, so we had a couple of hours by this point, so we went to check out the grounds of Celtic Manor, I’d been there before but it was nice to be there again. After our walk we were needed for the first time; we met the Dominican Republic Delegate, Octavian, he spoke very little english and we were needed to help translate some information to him; me, havent had done Spanish in 4 or 5 years and only knowing Latin fluently, brought out Google Translate and started relaying the information to him. Octavian then thought I was fluent in Spanish, so we became very good friends. He gave us all a gift from his country and was very greatful.
Fortunately the rest of the day was filled with reviewing my BMO1/BMO2 questions from earlier in the year, meeting Geoff Smith, a nice dinner and a quiet Jury Meeting.
A Runners Life
A usual Jury meeting would go like this:
- Firstly, Adam would ring the bell and then all the delegates would congregate and we would introduce what we were discussing that session.
- Then somebody would bring up a point about the problems and it would spark a discussion about that point.
- Soon, if the discussion was detremental to the paper, then Adam would ask somebody to formally propose a motion, then a seconder and then the Jury would vote.
- Then repeat the last few steps until we adjurned.
- Sometimes, if we were discussing the wording or markschemes, we would have people telling us about what they’ve done in terms of the paper, i.e. the Head Co-ordinators.
All the time I would be running to any delegate that was called out by Adam.
A Formal Dinner like no other
On Saturday evening, dressed in my lilac suit after another day of running about Celtic Manor, we were treated to a Formal dinner at the 2010 Club, so at 1845 we all got on the coach down to the 2010 Club, the hosting Club of the 2010 Ryder Cup.
We had dinner at 1900, a lovely spread of different dishes from different parts of the world; as our meals usually were. While having a welcome drink, I was lucky enough to chat to the Malaysian Leader, a mathematical researcher at The University of Oxford, we chatted about Differential Geometry, a subject of interest for me. The dinner was delightful as per usual and by that time the co-ordinators has arrived, many I helped check in earlier in the day.
A couple of days in, after a day of discussing TMC and STMC with Anne, Fernando arrived, an extremely jolly Equadorian. I had dinner with him and we instantly kicked it off, we would spend the next couple of days together. One of these discussions involved trying to get all of the South Americans. We discussed the intrecasies of asking somebody to play football but decided that saying ¿Juagar Football? sufficed.
The morning arrived where we decided to Juagar Football, so we searched all of Celtic Manor for a football, but unfortunately we couldnt find one, so no Juagar Football. So instead I spent my morning off with all the South Americans in the pool, which was all very nice.
The Opening Ceremony
As our time was nearly coming to a close we had one last treat in store! The opening ceremony, one of waving flags, pyrotechnics and the illusive long speeches I was warned of. It all kicked off with the whole of the IMO deligation at Celtic Manor placed onto busses and taken to the Forum theatre in Bath.
I was again wearing, at this point, the infamous lilac suit again. Lunch was kindly provided at the Forum, a gluten free pasty and a couple of donut peaches for me, yum! After a couple of my well enjoyedconversations, with a few new people this time; Peter Shui being one of them, we went into the Theatre, at this time, the participants had taken their seats and the show was about to begin, and what a show it was! Firstly the entertainer was singing and they showed images and videos of the IMO students so far. Then Geoff Smith gave a speech and we had the flag parade. People from all over the world had come to join in the mathematics and take part, one of the highlights being one team taking a selfie with the audience, as always the British team were in their themed UKMT outfits, that I envied very much. We had final speech and then it was time to head back to Celtic Manor and enjoy another of the delightful dinners.
As my time was running out, along with the drinks tokens, we were to say our final goodbyes to Celtic Manor. We sat and watched the lunar eclipse, while I tried to convince everybody that Gin was the best drink ever made by man, I was with some Germans who loved the welsh beer, I was fighting a losing battle. We drank to a good IMO and an even better next year. In the morning we did the Q&A for the second day and I boarded the busses for the final time. I was placed on Adams bus and as we pulled in the University of Bath, he gave me the goodbye he said he thought I deserved. I was made to stand up infront of everybody on the bus to a round of applause. The IMO was truly an experience I am never to forget.
After that, I stayed to enjoy the atmosphere in Bath for a couple of days, meeting more people, as interesting as the last bunch, one event of particular interest was being asked out for drinks with a girl and her friend, we ended up sitting in an overly crowded roof terrace with an extrememly drunk couple that could believe that it took them two hours to get to Bath from Chippenham and the man was insistant on boom, boom, shake the room . I still chuckle about that!