Cat statues, Mathematigerinnen and koalas - oh(pening cere)m(on)y | Australian Maths Trust

Cat statues, Mathematigerinnen and koalas – oh(pening cere)m(on)y

After a mostly good night’s sleep, broken only by Eugeniya’s penchant for accidentally turning room lighting on in her sleep, and another tasty breakfast in which we sampled various types of Ukrainian sweet pastries, it was time to officially kick off the proceedings with the Opening Ceremony. 

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Upon arriving at the venue, we took our seats near the back of the room – but not before a kuddle* of koalas mysteriously found their ways onto a number of bags, suits and hats.

* collective noun completely fabricated, as it appears that there does not exist a canonical collective noun for koalas!

The ceremony began with a (musical) bang as we were introduced to the world’s longest wind instrument, the trembita, in action, accompanied by an impressive orchestra comprising a host of Ukrainian folk instruments. This was followed by speeches by a number of esteemed representatives of Ukraine, the EGMO, and mathematics generally; all shared the theme of the real prizes of the EGMO being independent of points and scores, but rather in the friendships formed, the fun and joy of the experience, and the opportunity to share together the appreciation of the beauty of mathematics.

As the introduction of all of the various teams began, Australia was unexpectedly announced first, with the other countries following in a unintuitive (i.e. non-alphabetical) but clearly intentional order. It transpired that the algorithm behind the arrangement was based on distance – countries had been ordered descendingly according to distance between their respective capital cities and Kyiv. Naturally, we smashed that one out of the park!

The ceremony concluded with an inexplicable (but catchy) rendition of the Mission: Impossible theme by the folk orchestra, and it was time to indulge in some more team photos in front of the shiny EGMO backdrop.

We got to know our German friends better over lunchtime, with FLT and Mathematigerin quickly becoming best buddies, and the German team introducing us to their card game Tichu.

In the afternoon we split into two groups – one to relax in the hotel (in the time-honoured maths camp tradition of games, more games, and an extra side of games) and the other to explore the city further.

At the hotel, we embarked on a mission to become the deadliest pathogen in the world and eliminate as many countries as possible … in a board game context, of course. Eugeniya revealed yet another hidden power as she dominated the board, saving Russia from Dana’s nuclear strike, while Grace focused her endeavours on protecting China.

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Meanwhile, Eva, Louise and Michelle set out on an exploration of Kyiv, along with Kamila (our guide), Darina (North Macedonia’s guide) and Roxolana (a “super guide”, like Angelina). Together, we took a shuttle bus from our hotel to a nearby metro station, and from there a train into the city centre.

We soon arrived at Zoloti Vorota station, and upon stepping off our train we found ourselves immediately captivated by the sweeping arches, bronze chandeliers, and intricate mosaic stripes adorning the station platform. The escalator ride out of the station (situated almost 100m underground!) seemed to take an eternity, but eventually we made it back to the outside world with the Golden Gates of Kyiv right in front of our eyes.

As we wandered about the streets, we saw and admired many variously-sized monuments, including a bronze statue dedicated to the cat Panteleimon. Story goes that the large, fluffy Persian cat had once resided at a local restaurant but passed away when the restaurant caught fire. As the cat had been much loved by the restaurant’s visitors and owners alike, the sculpture was commissioned and installed in its honour.

We continued our tour, passing by the Taras Shevchenko National Opera of Ukraine before arriving at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, where Kamila, Darina and Roxolana are studying. The campus was littered with a collection of large, imposing buildings, and particularly striking was a bright red building which serves as the main building of the university. Our guides jokingly told us that it was covered with the blood of students.

We walked around some more and bought some souvenirs, and eventually it was decided that it was about time to head back and join the others. After returning to the hotel, playing some games of 500 (where it became apparent that the aim of the game was not to achieve the bid, but rather to claim the kitty), and eating dinner, we had an early night in preparation for the next day: day 1 of the competition!