Journal of 1994 International Olympiad in Informatics

Stockholm, Sweden, 1994

The four members of this year's USA computing team to the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), had just enough time to call their parents to announce that they were not heading home for another week before boarding the plane for Sweden. They had been selected as members of the 1994 USA team to the Sixth Annual IOI to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, July 3-10, 1994.

The winners had completed a week-long USA Computing Olympiad competition, June 25-July 2, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and sponsored by CEE, USENIX, and IBM. The United States team comprised James Ayers and Mehul Patel from Houston, TX, Brian Dean from Charlotte, NC, and Hubert Chen from Fort Washington, PA. They were accompanied by Greg Galperin, deputy team leader and graduate student from MIT and Don Piele, USA competition director.

We arrived at the Arlanda airport outside Stockholm on Sunday morning, July 3rd, and were met by four charming young women wearing white shirts with large yellow "IOI" letters on the back. They were part of an organized guide system that linked local students with teams from various countries. Our guide, Katrina, would be with us on all non-competition days during the week, making our stay in Sweden worry-free. We boarded buses for a short drive to the town of Haningen, just south of Stockholm.

The site of the 1994 competition was the Royal Institute of Technology at Riksapplet. Team accommodations were nearby at Hotel Najaden; team leaders were assigned private apartments. Students at the Institute had graciously given up their apartments for the week to help meet the housing requirements. With 48 countries participating, each with six people, housing was required for over 300 people, including guests. Both the accommodations and the competition site were superb.

Day 1 Opening Ceremonies

The first day began with opening ceremonies that included a parade of the flags from each of the participating countries. Mehul Patel, our only veteran IOI team member, was selected by the team to carry the flag for the United States. The official IOI flag was brought from Argentina and presented to Yngve Lindberg, the president of IOI '94. Music written especially for the occasion by Johannes Dominique, 15, was played on a computer connected to a sequencer and synthesizer. We then boarded buses for a short trip to the center of Stockholm and spent the rest of the beautiful afternoon on the water touring the waterways of Stockholm -- the Venice of the North.

Day 2 First Competition Day

On the first competition day, the jury -- consisting of the team leaders and deputy team leaders from each participating country -- arose early, had breakfast, and prepared for a 7:00 am meeting. The first job of the jury was to review the potential problems for the competition and make a decision on which problems to use.

We took our seats in the jury room behind the flag of our countries and discovered that the voting process would be considerably streamlined. At each station was an electronic device with two buttons marked `yes' and `no'. Each time a vote was needed, we had 30 seconds to register our decision before the results appeared on a monitor in front of the room. The problems for this year's competition had been carefully prepared by the Scientific committee from Sweden, headed by Hakan Stromberg. He had assembled a young committee of former IOI participants from Sweden who had been given the challenge of solving all of the competition problems created by Hakan. In addition, a first for IOI competitions, Sweden had decided to automate the grading process by writing programs to judge the output of a program when run with a test data file. This greatly streamlined the grading process and took hours off the time needed to grade each round.

Yngve Lindberg, the president of IOI kept the jury focused on the task at hand -- selecting three problems for the first round. The first three problems were handed out and discussed. It was strongly suggested by Yngve that unless something was wrong with one of these problems, this carefully selected set with levels of difficulty from easy to hard, should be selected. This deviated from the usual practice of examining 5 or 6 potential problems for a given round and voting to select the top three. Each procedure has it strengths and weaknesses, but the group went along with Yngve's suggestion, and the first three problems were accepted. For the next four hours the semantics of each problem statement were revised and then translated into the native language of each country. By noon the students were ready to begin programming.

Five hours later, Round One was over, and the contestants left their computers and went looking for their fellow teammates to discuss how they solved or didn't solve the three problems. Thanks to the new automated grading procedure participants would shortly know their first round score. Out of 100 possible points, the US team scored as follows: Patel 100; Dean 90; Chen 60; and Ayers 60. The average score for all IOI contestants was 43.

Day 3 Stockholm Tour

Our touring day began with a bus ride to Ericsson, an international telecommunications company headquartered in Stockholm and the sponsor for the day's activities. We were given a scientific talk on the future of telecommunications and a demonstration of unusual robots. After lunch we boarded our buses for a short ride downtown to one of Stockholm's leading attractions -- the Vasa. This 17th century warship was rescued from the bottom of the harbor in 1961 after resting for 330 years in the deoxygenated water of the Baltic Sea. It survived in this water almost intact and has been restored to it original splendor. Today it stands as a unique witness to 17th century ship-building and life on board those ships. We were bused back to the Royal Institute of Technology at Riksapplet for dinner. Afterwards, a seminar on "Alias," one of the world's most advanced software tools for animation, visualization and design, was presented.

Day 4 Second Competition Day

The second round of competition was a repeat of the first round, but with harder problems. The team leaders selected the three suggested problems as before and made a few semantic changes before each country began translating the text. Again, the contestants took up the final challenge shortly after noon.

Five hours later, a less confident group of contestants emerged from the computer rooms shaking their heads. The second round, as always, was more difficult -- enough to challenge the very best. On this round, the average for all IOI participants dropped by 20 points to 23. The US team scored as follows: Patel 56, Dean 31, Chen 35, Ayers 31. Now we could only wait and see where the combined scores (Patel 156, Dean 121, Chen 95, Ayers 91) would place in the medal rankings. Since the average score was 66, it appeared that all four members would get a medal. Medals are given only to the top half of the participants in the ratio of 1-Gold, 2-Silver, 3-Bronze.

Day 5 Excursion to the Swedish Archipelago

Sweden is blessed with nearly 20,000 islands, and many of them are within a short cruise from the Stockholm harbor. Some of the islands are so small they have only a single red log cabin on them, a summer vacation home. We passed many of them on our steamboat ride to the island of Uto, easily recognized by its big windmill. We stopped off for an island tour conducted by a hearty native who lives there year 'round. Uto is now a vacation destination, but it was once famous for its iron mine, the first one in Sweden. The team leaders took a separate boat back and stopped off at Rosenon, a vacation resort where we met, dined, and made the all important cut-off decisions for the three classes of medals: Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Again, the Swedish scientific committee introduced an innovation which enabled the assembled group of team leaders and deputy team leaders to reach a decision easily. They passed out a graph of the student's scores ranked from highest to lowest, without any markings on the y-axis to indicate a value. They then proposed cutoff scores between gold, silver, bronze, and nothing. The process was blind to each team leader so the voting was not tainted by self-interest. No one could tell which countries would be affected by the cut-off line, although a few tried to make educated guesses. The system worked well, and we quickly came up with dividing lines based purely on the numbers. The cumulative score needed to get a medal were:

	Points     Award      Number
	148-200    Gold        16 medals	
	96- 147    Silver      34 medals
	66-95      Bronze      47 medals 
After dinner we returned by boat to the mainland and by bus to Haninge.

Day 6 - Awards Ceremony

Since Stockholm is the setting for the annual Nobel Prize Awards, it was a wonderful idea to hold the final awards ceremony in the same location, the beautiful City Hall situated on the water in the center of the city. Most famous of all the rooms in this magnificent red brick building is the Golden Hall, where 18 million pieces of mosaic constructed from ceramic, glass, and 24 carat gold leaf cover the walls. The ceremonies were held in the grand entrance hall, the Blue Room. To add to the elegance, the lovely Queen of Lake Malaren, Charlotte Mangborg, presented the medals to the very proud winners.

The IFIP trophy for the highest score (195) went to Victor Bargatchev from Russia. He lead the Russian team that finished first among the 48 countries participating. Below is a listing of the total points for the top seven countries.

Team     Points           Medals
------   ------      -------------------------
Russia   617         3 Gold, 1 Silver
China    558         3 Gold, 1 Bronze
Germany  492         2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Hungary  475         2 Gold, 1 Bronze
USA      463         1 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze
Czech Rep459         1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Romania  444         1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
The US Team finished in 5th place -- up from 7th last year -- with medals for everyone.
	Gold -   Mehul Patel ( 156)
	Silver - Brian Dean  (121)
	Bronze - Hubert Chen  (95)
                 James Ayers  ( 91)
The ceremonies ended with the introduction of Ries Kock, the team leader from the Netherlands, the host of the 1995 IOI. Since the beginning of IOI in 1989, the Netherlands has brought a team consisting of two girls and two boys, and Ries has pushed for a more balanced representation of boys and girls from other countries. However, the number of women participating overall has not exceeded 5%. In the Netherlands, it would be difficult to find sponsors for an event with such a low percentage of women participants.

To help stimulate the participation of girls at IOI, Ries extended an invitation to each country to bring five students in 1995, as long as the team includes at least one woman. This is understandably a very controversial issue with some team leaders, but it appeared that the willingness of the Dutch to invite another student from each country in an effort to actively encourage participation by women silenced the opposition, at least for the present. When one is around the Dutch delegation for a week, it is easy to believe they know what they are doing. No one has more fun and reaches out to more people than do the Dutch. To them, the IOI is more than a competition. It is also a chance for young people from various countries to make life-long friends.

Bouquets of flowers were handed out by Queen Charlotte to members of a very deserving Swedish organizing committee. They not only arranged for a week of perfect weather, but they also conducted an innovative Olympiad with many time-saving improvements. IOI '94 president Yngve Lindberg's years of experience,and his strong leadership ability shoved the bar to a new high. Just to equal this mark will be a challenge to those who follow.

Any country that accepts the responsibility of hosting an Olympiad assumes a huge responsibility. Not only must organizers find the financial resources, which range from $250,000 - $500,000, but they must also assemble personnel willing to work very hard and long hours. Despite this daunting responsibility countries are lined up until the year 2000 to host the IOI. The list:

Year 	Country   	City
1995	Netherlands    Eindhoven
1996	Hungary        Veszprem
1997	South Africa   Cape Town
1998	Portugal       Estoril	
1999	Turkey
2000	China          Beijing
The year 2001 is still open, offering a timely opportunity for the US to host the Olympiad. We will need to begin organizing this year to see if we can generate the necessary support among sponsors in the US to host the first IOI of the 21st century.

USACO thanks CEE, USENIX, IBM, and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for sponsoring the USA Computing Olympiad at UW-Parkside. A special thanks is due the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), which provided the funding for the air transportation to the Third USACO and to the Sixth IOI in Sweden. Without the support of these sponsors, there would be no US participation at IOI.

Finally, I want to thank the USACO staff who freely gave of their time during the year to help select the 15 finalists and then traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in June to select and train the final four. Kudos go to Rob Kolstad (Chief of Staff), Greg Galperin (Deputy Team Leader), and coaches Nate Bronson and Shawn Smith. Another great job!

Don T. Piele
USA Team Leader
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Kenosha, WI 53141-2000
Phone: 414-595-2231
Fax: 414-595-2056