IOI 2002

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Yong-In, Korea

by Don Piele, USA

By Sunday evening, August 18, 2002, the US delegation had all arrived safely in Korea and were bussed to site of IOI 2002. The weather was a slow drizzle but we were too tired to care since it was very late and almost impossible not to doze off on the bus ride. Some in our group had been traveling for twenty two hours. Our delegation consisted of thirteen members.

Name Title
Don Piele IC Member
Greg Galperin ISC Member
Brian Dean Team Leader
Russ Cox Deputy Leader
Constance Wheeler Invited Observer
John Creecy Invited Observer
Jacob Burnim Contestant 01
Adam D'Angelo Contestant 02
Liu Tiankai Contestant 03
Alex Schwendner Contestant 04
Linda Piele Visitor
David Schwendner Visitor
Brook Randal Visitor


Our delegation met up Monday morning for breakfast and our first tour of IOI 2002 -- the Korean Folk Village. It was built in 1970 as an open-air folk museum reconstructing a traditional Korean residential area from the late Chosun Dynasty. Tiankai Liu was able to demonstrate his skill at writing Korean characters to create: "Korea is beautiful and so is my girl friend." Very diplomatic.

The opening ceremony was held in Renaissance Hall in the Central Library for the 277 contestants, and the leaders, and guests for a total near 600. It began with a short report on IOI 2002 by Ha-Jine Kimn, chairman of the organizing committee. There were two messages, one from Yookun Cho, president of IOI 2002, and one from Yung Bok Chae, the Minister of Science and Technology for Korea.

Besides the congratulatory message from Jari Koivisto, chairman of IOI 2002, there was a short presentation by the youngest contestant Zviad Metreveli, aged 13, from Georgia. At the end he gave his hat to the Chairman of IOI 2002, Ha-Jine Kimn.

The contestants were sent off to their rooms by 8 pm while the team leaders approved the three problems for the first competition day and began the long task of translating them into their native language. Some did not finish until the wee hours of the morning.

First Competition Day

After breakfast the contestants were bussed to the library, and led to their computers. They were given five hours to work on the three problems for round one. The word after the time was up was that they were a very challenging set of problems. We met up with the team on the front steps of the library and they agreed. Team leaders Brian Dean and Russ Cox were challenged to come up with a good approach to some of the problems and they didn't have to program them.

Linda, Connie, John, David, and Brook spent the day touring Kyonggi where they walked around the Suwon World Cup Stadium and visited the Ho-Am Art Museum. The visitors were treated each day to a different tour.

The weather was about perfect for Korea this time of year -- sunny and in the high 70's. It had rained continuously the previous two weeks.

In the evening, the contestants and leaders were shown examples of Korean culture and had an opportunity to learn Taekwondo the martial arts of Korea.


It is customary between competition days to have a day off. Today was that day. The tour busses (about 20 in number) headed out in the morning for an hour-long trip into the heart of Seoul, Korea for the first stop at the 'TechnoMart. This is a 12 story high-tech multimedia center with a research and development area, electronics stores, multiplex cinema, and finance center.

After lunch we were off to the Korean War Memorial where they house the relics, military hardware, weapons, and other military paraphernalia from past wars - especially the Korean War. All of the names of those who lost their lives in that conflict were there. Linda found the name of a schoolmate's brother who she remembered was killed in Korea.

At 8:00 pm the delegation leaders met in the general assembly to select the final three problems for the second day of the competition.


The second set of problems was appreciated by the competitors more than the first. Everyone came out feeling relieved it was finally over. When we got the results back they were all very close together - around 200 points out of a possible 300 points on round 2. On the first day, Tiankai Liu, had a higher than our average score because of his success on one problem which he did better than all other competitors at IOI. So his total number of points (415) for the two days was ahead of the others on our team by over a hundred points.  The other three Jacob, Adam, and Alex were close together with totals just under 300 and combined with day 1, good enough for medals.

Overall, they all did a wonderful job just getting medals in a very difficult competition. The problems used by the Koreans were very original and forced the students to think outside the box. Tiankai showed his extraordinary ability to do just that by coming up with an original solution that surprised even the judges. He was the only one in the competition to get full marks on the problem called XOR. His winning solution was only 100 lines of code, about a third as long as expected and it outperformed the judges' solution.  Remember, this is only one of three problems he had to solve in five hours and the judges have spent weeks finding their best solution.

The visitors were off on a tour of Seoul stopping off at the Changdeokgung Palace and the shopping district called Insa-Dong.


Today our tour began at Everland -- Korea's answer to Disney World.  In addition to the usual rides and amusements, it had beautiful gardens, a zoo, and a very popular safari, where we got a chance to see wild animals up close. The whole park is geared for the family and especially the young kids. The rides are kinder and gentler than the scare your pants off rides at Great America. We seemed to have the whole place to ourselves - no lines and no waiting. We dined in the Dutch Village with real china, metal knives and forks, and smiling, beautiful food servers -- quite a contrast from Great America.

After lunch it was on to the 'Icheon Pottery Village' where, besides touring a museum filled with priceless works of pottery from the 11th century, we watched an artist transform a hunk of clay into a beautiful urn with a handle and water spout.


This afternoon the closing ceremony began promptly in the Victoria theater at Everland. It opened with a non verbal music performance by Duderock.

Dignitaries included Dr. Sang-Joo Lee, Deputy Prime Minister of Education and Human Resources,  Dr. Yung Bok Chae, Minister of Korean Science and Technology, and Mr. Suek Namgoong, president of patronage for IOI 2002.

Awards were given to Peter Heyderhoff, Emilia Ratobylskaya, Wen-Hu Wu, and Stanislaw Waligorski for their distinguished service to IOI since it's beginning in 1989.

After a performance by Show-Taekwon, and a few more speeches, the stage was cleared for the awarding of the 68 bronze medals, 47 silver medals, and the 23 gold medals. Here is the list of the medals winners in rank order.

Tiankai Liu a sophomore from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH, captured a gold medal. The other three members of the US team won silver medals: high school seniors Adam D'Angelo also from Phillips Exeter Academy, and Jacob Burnim, from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD, along with Alex Schwendner, a home schooled freshman from Austin, Texas.

Burnim, captured the highest silver medal during the competition. Schwendner, a freshman, was the youngest team member from the US ever to receive a silver medal.

I expected we would get medals but didn't expect 3 silver and one gold. Tiankai  had the fourth highest score in the whole contest and this was his first year at IOI.

In addition to his gold medal Liu was awarded the Sens Q prize, newly established by Samsung Electronics for the contestant who solved the problems the most creatively. His solution to the hardest problem was so original it surpassed the judges' solution as well as those of all the other competitors. His ability in mathematics gave him the insight that others missed. He received a Samsung laptop computer as his prize.

Finally, it was time to hand over the flag from Korea to the United States. Greg Galperin and I went up on stage to receive the flag from Ha-Jing Kimn. I could not resist the golden opportunity to take two pictures of the audience from on stage.

It is traditional in Korea to get a group to smile by asking them to say, kimchi. So I took the Kimchi shot first.

In the US, and especially in Wisconsin,  it is traditional to say "cheese." I took the cheese shot second.

There may not be much difference between a kimchi smile and a cheese smile but there will be a big difference between IOI 2002 and IOI 2003. For starters, our budget will be about 1/5th of the Korean budget of 2.2 million dollars. In Korea, IOI 2002 was a national event supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Korean Information Science Society, the Korean Science and Engineering Foundation, with sponsorships from Samsung, Microsoft, and many other companies. In the United States, the USACO is run by 6 volunteers with no support from the government.

Once the ceremony was over, the flag was passed from Korea to the United States.

A grand show and farewell banquet awaited the participants in the Rose Garden of Everland. Once again, no expense was spared in putting on an extravagant show with top named performers.

Korea went all out for IOI2002. Their grading system worked flawlessly. They had very good, well prepared problems and everything was well organized. My impression of Korea is a country on the rise. They rank number one in the world in primary and secondary education and they have embraced technology with a passion. They bussed in all 70 finalists in their national  informatics competition to see the final awards ceremony and have a holiday at Everland. As a nation they want more young people to study informatics early and they support it. In the years to come I will not be surprised to see "Made in Korea" on our software too.

We spent our final day in Korea near the Inchon airport. We took a ferry across the bay to Wolmido and visited the famous statue of General Douglas MacArthur in Jayu (Freedom) Park. His invasion at Inchon in 1950 turned the tide in the Korean War. The next morning we were up early so we could check in as soon as possible and get the best seats on our Korean Air flight back to the US.

Participation in the IOI 2002 was made possible by USENIX our sponsor for the USACO.