Report from Turkey

The eleventh IOI is now history and we are relaxing for one last day on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Turkey in the resort town of Belek, near Antalya. USA team members, Daniel Wright, Ben Mathews, Percy Liang, and David Cheng, are in a relaxed and upbeat mood knowing that the most difficult task ahead of them is catching up on homework. This pales in comparison to the challenges they have faced this week at the 11th International Olympiad in Informatics: the most difficult set of problems ever presented at an IOI. Fortunately, each member of the team managed to score well enough to receive a medal. A total of 257 students from 65 countries, competed for 22 gold, 42 silver, and 64 bronze medals. Out of 600 points possible the median score was 135, rather low by previous IOI standards. Our youngest team members, David and Percy, who still have a year of eligibility, received bronze medals. Our retiring seniors, Ben and Daniel, who are going back to their freshman years at Cal Tech and Stanford, received silver medals. The top score of 480 points went to Hong Chen from China, for which he received the gold first place trophy. Second place was shared by Mathijs Vogelzang of the Netherlands and Roman Pastoukhov of the Russian Federation. We were fortunate to have had Mathijs join us at our training camp last summer, so watching him receive the first gold medal ever for the Netherlands was a special treat.

Looking back over the past week, there are many memorable moments. Here are some of them.

Team Leader Rob Kolstad and I met up in Chicago with three of the team members, while Deputy Team Leader Brian Dean escorted David Cheng on a flight from New York. We all met up in Istanbul and took a short one hour flight together to Antalya, Turkey's principal holiday destination. As soon as we left the airport, we were met by our student quide who escorted us by bus to Sirene City Resort, an impressive five star vacation retreat on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean.

That evening when we entered the outdoor dining facility for the first time, we saw before us an incredible buffet of salads, cheeses, main dishes, meats, chicken, fish, breads, and then, if you possibly had any room left, desserts without end. Occasionally at an IOI, you will hear someone complain about the food - but not this year. It was clear from our very first meal that there would be only accolades for the food at Sirene City. The same wide variety of choices was available morning, noon, and night. Great food is clearly one of the advantages of holding an IOI at a five star resort.


The opening ceremony was held at the beautiful Talya Hotel in downtown Antalya on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Professor Doctor Namik Kemal Pak, Director of Tbitak, relayed a message sent by the President of Turkey, Sleyman Demirel. Professor Gktrk Uoluk followed with a brief journey through the history of computer science, ending with a string and ball demonstration of a constant time algorithm for finding the shortest path between two nodes. Native dancers performed a marriage dance that began with a camel ride for the bride and a shave for the groom. 

A tour of the Antalya Kaleii Marina and old city began near the elegant, fluted minaret of the Yivli Manareli Mosque built in the 13th century. The day ended with a look at the ancient Roman statues housed at the Antalya Museum. The museum is rich with relics from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

That evening, students and team leaders went their separate ways. We were housed in separate quarters so there would be no contact between the team leaders and the students once the problem selection process had begun. The general assembly began the question selection process at 9:00 p.m. The process took longer than expected, and translations from English into each native language began in the wee hours of the next day. Some countries were still translating when the sun came up the next morning, making for a long and tiring night. Yes, the sun did come up each morning and furthermore it stayed visible all day. We were in sun bathers' heaven all week. The vacationers to this area, mostly Germans, lounged by the two huge outdoor pools or soaked up the sun on the beach. For as far as the eye could see, beach umbrellas lined the coast in front of resort after resort, with people dedicated to one task - getting baked.


The students were up early, had breakfast, and were led into a huge convention room that was partitioned off and filled with 300 computers, all networked together. This is where they would spend the next five hours trying to solve three tough problems by writing programs in Turbo Pascal or Turbo C/C++. The team leaders were in a completely separate location and never saw the students in action. The IOI competition has never been a spectator sport. Once the clock began, many team leaders headed off to their rooms or the pool for some well deserved rest.

In the afternoon, a workshop on "Future Competition Environments" was held. Rob Kolstad, our team leader, reported on the recommendations from a meeting of the New Environments Committee held in Enschede, Holland in July. The recommendation to switch in the year 2001 to free Pascal and to C/C++ compilers (like DJGPP) that eliminate the 640K memory restrictions of DOS was overwhelmingly favored by the participants.

While we were discussing new environments, the Scientific committee from Turkey was busy overseeing the automatic grading system as it worked it magic examining the outputs from ten test cases run against each of the three problems. After a few hours, the grading was done and a report was generated for each contestant. These were handed over to the team leaders who were then free to examine the programs one at a time with each participant. This process eliminated the old procedure of waiting around while each contestant got in line to have his/her programs tested. The automated grading process used in Turkey will undoubtedly become the standard for future IOI's. The painfully long grading process used in the past is now history.


This was a day of relaxation that began with a visit to a carpet and jewelry mall. We watched women making the carpets and were told they can only do this job for two to four hours a day because of the intensity of the work. The beautiful silk rugs with the highest density of knots were truely works of art. We were led into a large room and seated against the wall, and then the show began. Our "Master of Rugs" gave the history of each carpet and attendants rolled them out as he snapped his fingers. The smaller rugs were sent spinning airborne with dramatic flair. Once the show was over, many salesman came out of the woodwork looking for prey. If they spotted a likely buyer, he or she was invited to a private room where the real bargaining would begin. Both team leaders, Rob and Brian, who never dreamed they would come home with a rug, did. Of course, they each "really got a good deal."

The rest of the day was spent at Kemer for lunch and then on to Phaselis on the west coast of Antalya. Here we toured an impressive site of Roman ruins, walking under an aqueduct and down a main street of gray-white marble blocks with bath houses on either side. A visit to a Roman amphitheater finished the tour, and we loaded up for a high-speed bus ride back to the hotel. It appeared that the bus drivers were very eager to be done for the day. Kim, the team leader from Holland, who was sitting in front, walked back and announced, in disbelief, "We're going 95 miles per hour." In route we never had to stop for a red light once. We were in a high speed, police escorted, motorcade.


The second round of competition was a repeat of the first round. Again, several delegation leaders were up all night making their translations. After the competition ended, everyone headed for some R&R beside the pools or on the sandy beach.


Best described as an antiquities and nature tour, Thursday began with a short bus ride to Perge, a beautifully complete Roman city. We learned that Appollonius of Perge, known as the Great Geometer, introduced the terms Ellipse, Hyperbola, and Parabola. Next we visited the two beautiful waterfalls at Kursunlu Falls. The tour ended with a visit to the Aspendos Amphitheater, one of the largest and best preserved theaters of antiquity. It was built during the rein of Marcus Aurelius (2C BC) and can hold 20,000 people.

We returned to the resort hotel and our final evening general assembly. First, the cut off scores for the medals were quickly decided. Then we began discussing another recommendation that came from the New Environments Committee. This was a plan to create an IOI Scientific Committee (ISC) that would assist each country's Scientific Committee in the formulation and review of problems and test data. It was explained that as the competition advanced in complexity, we should try to provide a level of continuity from competition to competition, so that each country need not start from ground zero. As it was explained by Rob, "It is far better to have cooperation between countries and help raise the level of all IOI's than to have a competition for the dubious title of "Best IOI." In this way the last IOI will always be the "Best IOI," since it will be constantly improving. The IOI Scientific committee would provide another level of review to ensure the competition problems and test data are consistently of high quality.

Another recommendation was to create an IOI software team (IST). It would be responsible for the creation, maintenance, and distribution of evaluation software.

Both recommendations were approved by the General Assembly. It was clear to me that the General Assembly was receptive to new ideas that are needed, well documented, and properly presented.


The closing ceremonies were held at the Dedeman Hotel in Antalya. Those responsible for major portions of the IOI were given the honor of handing out the awards. When their names were called out, the audience responded with warm applause as a way of expressing their thanks for a job well done. The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey was in attendance and helped distribute the gold medals. Finally, the orange and white IOI flag was handed over by Gktrk Uoluk of Turkey to Zide Du of China. Zide then invited everyone to come to the 12th IOI in Beijing China, September 23-30, 2000.

A final dinner followed in the dining hall of the hotel overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. This was my last chance to photograph the teams and team leaders together and I took advantage of it. During the week I had taken well over 250 digital photographs which I had loaded onto my laptop. I was planning to select the best and make them available on our web site when I return.

Tomorrow we leave Antalya for Istanbul and then head back to the United States. As usual, we seem to have been gone much longer than a week, since we have done and seen so much. The 11th IOI was another fantastic experience for students, team leaders and me. The entire Turkish organizing committee deserves our most sincere congratulations for a truly impressive last IOI of the millennium.

Don Piele
USACO Director