Virtual IMO2020 in St. Petersburg

IMO has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When it became clear that a normal IMO2020 in St Petersburg in July would be impossible, the event was postponed until September in the hope that the pandemic would recede. Unfortunately this did not happen, and eventually it became clear that a normal IMO2020 would be impossible.

The organizers of IMO2020 and the IMO Board decided that it was vital to provide a fully official IMO2020 in September to all the young mathematicians who have been preparing to compete for many years. In order to do this remotely, a completely new virtual IMO format has been invented, with security protocols in place so that everyone can have full confidence in the integrity of the results.

Measures include: an Exam centre in every participating Country or Territory, supervised by a neutral IMO Commissioner. Socially distanced Exams will observed by webcams, with the video feeds sent to the Invigilation team in Russia. There will be a 4 hour 30 minute window in Co-ordinated Universal Time (GMT) in which every IMO Exam must start, so that there will be no gap after an Exam is finished in one Country, and the start of an Exam in another Country. This means that New Zealand (who go first) will finish their exams at midnight, and the last to sit (Mexico and many countries of South America) will start their papers at 07:00 local time (midnight NZ time). The countries of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and most of Asia will be able to sit the Contest Papers at more conventional times. The Problem Selection Committee will set the Contest Papers, not the IMO Jury.

There is also a difficulty with IMO2021. This was scheduled to be held in July 2021 in Washington DC. The funding model for this event was so disrupted by the pandemic that it soon became clear that it would be impossible to hold the event, and the USA was forced to withdraw its offer to host IMO2021. However, it seems that we have a new Host Country for IMO2021. As soon as the IMOB has formal confirmation that this will happen, the rearranged location of IMO2021 will be announced. The plan is for IMO2022 in Norway to go ahead as expected.

In these uncertain times, IMO must be flexible. Like everyone else, we wonder about the `new normal’, but whatever it is, IMO will flourish. Stay safe everyone!

Geoff Smith
President of the IMO Board