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IOI '97 in Cape Town

(Report by Tobias Kaufmann, member of the Swiss team and bronze medal winner)

On a nice summer morning (it was Saturday, November 29,1997) the Swiss IOI team arrived in Cape Town on flight SR 286; a team consisting of five people: the team leader Peter Strebel, a highschool teacher, the deputy leader Roger Wattenhofer, a junior assistant at ETHZ, and three students, Arsène von Wyss, my brother Peter Kaufmann and myself. Shortly after the touch down, we were met by Tamara (our amiable guide for the time of the Olympiad) and taken to the old University, where we were accommodated for the next few days. As most of the other teams hadn't arrived yet and the opening ceremony was going to be on Sunday, we immediately went for a stroll in town.

On Sunday, the International Olympiad in Informatics 1997 (IOI '97) opened with a splendid opening ceremony for the roughly 220 contestants and about 100 caoches from almost 60 countries. For the next days we were offered a very attractive side programme including a visit to the Waterfront, the Imax and the Two-Ocean-Aquarium, to the World of Birds and the famous Table Mountain, as well as to an ostrich farm, where we were even entertained by Zulu dancers. For Wednesday the first International Day was organised, an interesting project to promote contact among the IOI participants on the one hand and between native students and the IOI participants on the other. In small groups we prepared homepages on South Africa and a Java interface for an internet game. Besides we had enough sparetime to do what we wished to do. And when the temperature rose to 27° and became slightly unpleasant, we could turn to the air-conditioned computer rooms with internet connections, which helped to bridge the distance to our relatives and friends at home. And for those who still felt bored the computers had been fed with brand new internet games.

Amongst all these activities, the two main events, the two rounds of competitions, took place. At 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday we were placed at our computers and given three rather demanding problems, which had been chosen and translated into the mother tongues of the contestants the night before. We were allowed five hours to solve the problems in one of the three programming languages C++, Turbo Pascal or Quick Basic. In the afternoon our programmes were evaluated by evaluating software and each contestant could watch his work being tested on his computer. The evening party under the motto 'A Taste of South Africa' culminated in culinary and musical highlights in a relaxed atmosphere. No wonder that everybody was excited again. In the presence of numerous politicians and scientists the prizes and medals were awarded during a final ceremony in the Cape Town Civic Centre. The highest score of 462 points out of 600 was achieved by a Russian student. He won a gold medal, a PC and a challenge cup. We too were happy with our results, as we had won a bronze medal after all.

That was the official end of the IOI '97 but not the end of our stay. Ciba Speciality Chemical Ltd in Johannesburg had invited us to stay a few days longer, generously providing us with hotel accommodation and a car with a driver, which enabled us to discover more about the Cape Province. Mr Stephan Bocken, whom we had got to know at the final ceremony, took us round Cape Town and showed us District 6, Signal Hill and the Rhodes Memorial. So we learned a lot about the town and its history. On Monday we set out according to our own plans. We visited a crocodile farm, the vineyards of Stellenbosch and a South African papilliorama. The day after we went south along the west coast through the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve to the Cape Point. A beautiful trip. And on our way back we sighted - for the first time - wild baboons, ostriches and penguins. After taking off for Johannesburg we had a most beautiful view of the Table Mountain compensating us for too short a stay on our sightseeing trip to that imposing sight. At our arrival in Zurich the big hands of our watches had done the full circle for 14 times and the temperature had dropped by about 20°.

In the name of the Swiss team I wish to thank Mr Richard Hartland and Mr Stephan Bocken of the Ciba Speciality Chemical Ltd very warmly for the generous and friendly support. We won't ever forget Cape Town and the IOI '97. Thank you.