The International Mathematical Olympiad is now well underway with the second exam coming up in just a few hours. But what really happens before the exam?
The day after all the contestants arrive (called Arrival Day), the organisers host an opening ceremony that has several performers exhibiting the country's culture. Afterwards, each team gets their 6 seconds of fame as they parade across the stage. Some teams like the Australians like to throw souvenirs (in this case tiny clip-on koalas) into the audience!
A few speeches are given by the organising committees of the host country and the IMO. In particular, Nazar Agakhanov -the IMO President and Leader of the Russian team- congratulates the participants for being selected into their respective national teams. Everybody takes an IMO Oath together about honesty during the exam.
This is also the first time the students get to see their team leaders after several days. No communication is allowed of course (the organisers make sure that there's a physical barrier between the leaders and their teams), since the leaders know what the exam papers will be, but it's always reassuring to see a smile from a familiar face at such an anxious time.
There are very few times during the IMO week where all the teams are together in the same room -the Opening Ceremony being the first. It's hard to appreciate the sheer number of people who do the IMO every year. No wonder it's the biggest high-school competition in the world!
After the Opening Ceremony, the mood mellows down as the contestants prepare for the exam the next day. It's obvious that everybody is extremely nervous. Students attempt to predict the type of questions they will get the next day.