SA Scores Bronze at IOI 2011

Two South African learners won medals at the International Olympiad in Informatics in Thailand.

In two days of programming, they competed against participants from 79 other countries – including China, Russia and the USA

The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) is one of the annual Science Olympiads that is held in a different country every year.  For 2011 the host is Thailand and teams from 79 countries travelled to the city of Pattaya to compete with each other.

On each of the two competition days the participants were given three problems and five hours to write the programs to solve the problems.  The automated judging system then tests how efficiently the program produces the answers – often requiring that the correct answers be produced by the program in less than half a second.

The South African Team missed two of its stars who had gone off to take part in the International Maths Olympiad in Amsterdam.  Despite this the team did well; earning two bronze medals.  Most successful was Vaughan Newton of the Diocesan College (Bishops) in Cape Town.   The other medal was won by Bennie Swart, who was a learner at the Bellville High School when he won a place on the team.  Bennie is currently studying engineering at the University of the North West in Potchefstroom.

As in preceding years, and as one can expect in an international competition of this nature, the problems were exceedingly difficult to solve.  The South African team accumulated 990 points, more than any other African team except Egypt.

The top 10 individual performances:

1          Gennady Korotkevich, Belarus

2          Haoqiang,  Fan  China

3          Pavel  Kunyavskiy,  Russian Federation

3          Felipe  Souza,  Brazil

5          Alexander  Timin,  Russian Federation

6          Wenyu  Cao,  United States of America

7          Erjin  Zhou,  China

8          Jan  Milczek,  Poland

9          Paul  Kirchner,  France

10        Zhongtian  Jiang,  China

Gennady Korotkevich of Belarus has now taken part in his sixth IOI and is equalling the all-time record held by South African Bruce Merry, who also competed at six IOIs and won a medal at each.  This year’s youngest competitor  was 13-year-old Eduard Grigoryan of the USA.

By making all the scores available, the organisers made it possible to rank the participating countries. The top 3 are those one would expect to see at the top:  China, Russia and the USA. However there are some surprises among the rest of the top ten:  Taiwan, Croatia, Japan, Poland, Bulgaria, and host country Thailand.   South Africa is ranked 44th, immediately above Denmark, New Zealand, Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom.

As is now usual at science related Olympiads, there were very few girls among the 307 participants at the IOI. The five present represented Vietnam, Georgia, Indonesia, Cyprus and Bangladesh.  Asked why she had decided to compete with so many boys, Bristy Sikder of Bangladesh blamed it all on her father:  “He told me that just because other girls don’t do it doesn’t mean that I can’t do it.”

It was not all work at the IOI.  The participants had fun meeting new friends and visiting local sites.  At the Nong Nooch Gardens, a 600-acre adventure garden outside Pattaya, the high light was the elephant show Elephants playing soccer is something we missed at the World Cup in 2010 – not to mention elephants dancing and elephants riding tricycles.

The contestants went to visit the Ancient City at Samut Prakan, with its replicas of ancient palaces, temples and traditional houses.  The leaders went to visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.  The population of Thailand is 95% Buddhist and the Guavas (Thai name for Westerners)  had to be educated on what is appropriate for a palace and a temple.  Among the instructions: an illustrated A4-page on what not to wear:  No bare arms or even short sleeves, no shorts, torn or tight pants.  Skirts to cover the knees and no bare midriffs.

In general the Thai people create the impression that their prime aim in life is to make visitors feel welcome.  It took us a little time before we got used to the “wai” greeting, but not long before we could “wai” back.  The wai in Thailand is a greeting which shows politeness, respect, honour and friendship. One puts ones palms together and raises them to the chest while keeping the elbows close together and bowing the head.  Depending on the rank of the person being waid, the bow could go as far as the forehead touching the index fingers.