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Charlie’s IMO 2003 Travel


It is the day for Hong Kong Team to departure for IMO 2003 in Tokyo. Last night, I was so excited that I could sleep only at 3:00 a.m. But I have to leave home for the airport on 4:00 a.m.! When we arrived at the airport, we took a group photo. After that, we checked out and got on board. At about 3:00 p.m., we reached the National Olympic Memorial Youth Centre, the host venue of IMO 2003. Our guide was called Fei-Fei Wei, she could speak Mandarin, English and Japanese. She was so amicable!

Our first dinner in Japan was Japanese cuisine. There was roasted pork, rice and miso soup. Our first task, making souvenirs, commenced after dinner. We packed the stamps that were bought from Hong Kong into 100 packages as souvenirs. Each package had one 10-cent stamp and one 50-cent stamp. It was our fun time after the packing process. There is a traditional game of Hong Kong Team. It is our “Legendary Hong Kong Team Mahjong Set”. Our team in IMO 1994 bought it where Hong Kong was the host that year. It was passed on to the team next year henceforth. Our team took it to the IMO for entertainment every year. A coin of the host country is put into the case as a memorial. This year is its tenth time to participate in IMO. It has been to Canada, India, Argentina, Taiwan, Romania, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom. Therefore, the Mahjong case is full of coins!

We even brought a notebook computer this year. However, we could not get online there, so its main purpose was only listening to music and playing games. We just played for a while in the evening before going to bed. It was because tomorrow will be the opening ceremony.


We met and took a group photo with the Chinese team this morning. After that, we had a walk around National Olympic Memorial Youth Centre to get familiar with it. The opening ceremony starts in the afternoon. It should be the first time to meet for all teams. We brought the regional flag of Hong Kong this year. Therefore, we took a photo with it before entering the venue of the ceremony. Although the ceremony had not started yet, many teams got into the venue before our entry! There were various kinds of team uniforms, namely T-shirts and suits. Most of them were eye-catching. The Brazilian team even wore the shirts for their national soccer team as their uniforms!

There were many performances of traditional arts, such as drums and string musical instruments. Besides, every team had a chance to get on the stage. The whole ceremony was so fantastic! We returned to our dormitory for practice when the ceremony was over.


Today is the first day of the exam. The exams in IMO take 2 days. 3 problems are going to be solved in 4.5 hours a day. Each problem is worth 7 points. Participants can go to the washroom or even eat during the exam. I was not strained during the exam. Firstly, I finished Problem 2 in 1 hour and Problem 1 in another hour. Then, I attempted Problem 3 in the vector approach. However, I could not get to the last step of the answer in the remaining two and a half hour.

My teammates were practicing in the dormitory in the afternoon. However, I was annoyed by the vectors, so I took a walk with our guide and deputy leader in Shibuya. Kahoo and Bobby also arrived in the evening. They come along with us to assist paper marking. I thought I should have 16 marks today. A gold medal should not be missed if I finish Problems 4 and 5 tomorrow.


It is the second day of the exam. Having the first glance of the paper, I found that Problem 5 was easier. Therefore, I tried this first. I immediately use the substitution d1=x2-x1¡Ad2=x3-x2 to replace all terms in the inequality. Then I tried the cases for n = 1, 2, 3 and discovered that AM-GM inequality can do the job easily. I continued using this approach consequently. However, this approach was found to be failed when n = 5 an hour later. I could not think of any alternatives at that time, so I attempted other problems. Problem 6 was a number theory problem. As observed from the statement in the problem, the answer should be trivial while the proof was difficult. I had no idea about it. The remaining problem, Problem 4, was a geometry problem. Despite the lack of pure geometry methods, I thought I could finish the problem in two and a half hour with brutal methods in trigonometry. Disappointedly, nothing had been done when the exam was over.

I met many people on the way to leave the exam centre. They said that Problem 4 was easy. Failed to finish this problem, I could only blame myself that I did not learn pure geometry well. I did not make any improvement after winning a gold medal last year, so I hardly learn more useful skills. Yet, this failure was not meaningless. It could let me introspect and learn seriously at least.

We went to Ikebukuro for relaxation in the afternoon. Ikebukuro Sunshine is full of theatres, game centres and shopping malls, it can be regarded as the youth zone of Tokyo. I bought some souvenirs for my friends here. In the evening, our whole team, Kahoo and Bobby played mahjong and bridge in the dormitory. These activities let me relax well.


Today was nearly fully occupied by free activities. We join the calligraphic activity in the morning. It was supervised by a Japanese teacher of calligraphy. A piece of paper was there with a writing brush and ink aside. People who didn’t know calligraphy wrote in English with the writing brush. However, I being a Chinese wrote the characters ‘Hong Kong’ so badly. Then we went to the sports centre to play badminton. It was my first time to play badminton since I was in primary school. As I could not serve when I was small, I did not play it since then. Nevertheless, not only could I serve, I played fairly well! Badminton is really interesting.

When we were playing so excitedly, a strange accident occurred: When I hit the shuttle near the net, I was hit by the racket of my opponent who was making a shot. I was bleeding immediately. Fortunately, only my lips were hurt. Despite the small wound, it was still painful. Therefore I returned to the dormitory to play computer games afterwards. It was great that the computer showed the time of Hong Kong!

My teammates had their lunch at noon. They thought that I would have the lunch myself but I didn’t, so I missed the lunch again. We went shopping in Ueno after lunch. In the evening, we had pork bone ramen for dinner. Having returned to the dormitory, we saw some pieces of paper stuck on the pillars at the door. They were solutions of the problems posted by different teams.


It is a day of free activities. We first visit Yoyogi Park and then Harajuku and Shibuya. We bought many things and tried curry in Tokyo there. After that, we had been to Tokyo Tower. There was an outlook of whole the Tokyo. I saw a beautiful bridge there and knew that it was Rainbow Bridge. Even more, it was heard that we could see Fiji Mountain if the weather is fine!

It was the announcement of our results when we were back to National Olympic Memorial Youth Centre. As I knew that my performance was not so good, I was very anxious. Finally, I got 19 marks (7 + 7 + 3 + 0 + 1 + 1) and managed to win a silver medal. 2 silver, 2 bronze medals and a honourable mention was awarded to our team with a total of 91 marks. We ranked 28th, which was the same as Argentina. Bulgaria got 6 gold medals with 227 marks, so it came first to broke the 4-year monopoly of Chinese team. Chinese team got the first-runner up with 5 gold and 1 silver medals and 211 marks. The following positions were USA, Vietnam and Russia in that order. There were 3 perfect scorers where one of them was a Chinese and two of them were Vietnamese.


We visited Disneyland in Tokyo today. It was my first time to visit Disneyland. We went on many amusement rides. Besides, we rowed boats and watch a firework performance. When we were back to our dormitory from Disneyland, we distributed souvenirs to other teams. We knocked at the doors one by one to find teams from other countries. When we chatted with them, we give out our souvenirs. After that, Kai-Sing Yeung and I met a Romanian team member in a square. We discussed a lot of mathematical topics with him. It should be some sorts of cultural exchange, right?


It was the closing ceremony today. I was so happy in these days, but when I was reminded that IMO would be over soon, I missed it very much. During the prizing ceremony, we took a group photo with Macau, Chinese and Taiwanese teams. In the closing banquet, we met and played card games with Macau team again.

When we were back to the dormitory, all of us packed up our luggage at first. After that, while other teammates were playing Mahjong, I wrote postcards to my friends in Hong Kong. It was 2:00 am already when I finished writing postcards. I went for a walk afterwards. In the square, people of all races were singing, dancing, chatting and playing card games together in the square. It made me feel the harmony in the midst of different peoples.

All my teammates had slept when I returned to the dormitory. Consequently, I went to chat with Macau team in their rooms. We drank some wines too! In the course of our chat, I found that people in Macau are leading a simpler life, so they are happier. Besides, I was told that some subjects were taught in Putonghua in Macau. That’s why they can speak Putonghua more fluently than we do. They also learnt some Japanese during this trip. So happy we were, we even sang together! I was drunk later on. As I was really exhausted, I went to sleep after taking a photo with them.


I hardly had a slept last night, so I was so tired. We hurried to the airport by bus in the morning. After waiting for several hours, we returned to Hong Kong and this 9-day IMO trip ended completely.