Australian Maths Trust

Detective Tom and the mystery of the blood nose(s)

Another guest post by Charles!!!

The flight from Munich to Cluj-Napoca was rather uneventful, with the exception of Hadyn’s blood nose (incidentally, he’s also got one now, as I write this post…). Luckily, there was no shortage of serviettes on board, and it turns out that they make great impromptu tissues!

The team passed through a rather chatty immigration control at the airport, and at the baggage carousel Andrew remarked that his luggage was rather unstable as a result of a certain heavy object — the ashes urn — being awkwardly placed near the top of his suitcase. We decide that this will be a brilliant conversation starter next time we bump into Dominic with our luggage.

We were then greeted by some IMO volunteers, who led us out of the baggage claim area into the main hall of the airport. It was obvious that the IMO organisers had gone to some effort to plaster IMO signage and banners around the airport, and there was even a cardboard bear that you could take a photo with. Naturally, Hadyn immediately volunteered to become part of the IMO 2018 propaganda campaign photo gallery:contest.1

We were shuttled to Hotel Victoria, which is also where the Austrian, New Zealand, Kosovo, Canadian, Irish, Syrian, Singaporean, Dutch and Finnish teams will be staying (this is by no means an exhaustive list). We also met our guide Emi – a local who is currently in the equivalent of Year 11 in Australia. Emi has school holidays at the moment, just like us.

The opening ceremony took place on Sunday morning, and we were shuttled to the venue two hours before the ceremony started. After having our water bottles confiscated, we took a group photo in front of yet another IMO banner with Emi:


Arriving at the Polyvalent hall ridiculously early would be a recurring theme over the next few days. The Australians made good use of this time by socialising sticking mini koalas onto the other teams, a tradition that Andrew tells me dates back to at least 2006.contest-3.jpg

We decided to get the UK team first. Wen attacked Dominic with a koala with “Ashes” written on it, but was ambushed. Luckily for us, the rest of the UK team was more naive about the dangers of drop bears, and were easy first targets for the Aussies. All of the UNKs discovered the little critters attached to their team blazers fairly quickly, except for Tom who was very sad that he’d missed out on a souvenir koala (at that stage he had two attached to his blazer).

We wondered around a bit more, clipping koalas onto the Bangladesh team and just about anyone else we could. A later visit to the UK team revealed that Tom now had three koalas attached to him, and also that they’d clipped one onto Andrew’s hair!


The ceremony itself consisted of many speeches, including ones made by the Romanian president, and Geoff Smith, the UK team leader and president of the IMO board. There was also a dance performance, and then the parade, where each team went onto the stage and did a lap around the arena.


After the conclusion of the ceremony, we continued to clip koalas on other teams, including the South African and Dutch teams. We also bumped into the UK team again, and I noticed that Tom was now proudly wearing his four koalas on his lanyard.

Monday and Tuesday were the first and second days of the IMO contest itself; the problems on day 1 were Geometry, Algebra and Combinatorics, and day 2 consisted of Combinatorics, Number Theory and Geometry.

On the morning of the second exam, we were again bussed to the exam hall 2 hours before the exam itself started. Feeling restless, the students lay down on the floor, forming a human chain 3 or 4 students wide that stretched the length of the exam hall (and then yet some more). After this, some people thought it’d be a good idea to start doing laps of the exam hall, walking at first and eventually running. Determined to prove that the UK continues to be a hub of innovation and bright ideas, UNKs Tom and Harvey took the IMO flag and started parading it around the perimeter of the exam room. A spontaneous procession followed, with each team taking their own flag and holding it high while marching around the room. Some of the invigilators stood around and looked confused; others took out their phones and recorded the parade, and others still joined in the fun. Eventually, the flags were returned to their holders and the contestants were seated ready for the second exam.

Unfortunately Hadyn had another blood nose during the second exam. On the bright side, he was escorted out of the room by the invigilators within the last 30 minutes of the exam, and in doing so joins the (possible one-person long) list of contestants who have broken an IMO rule without being disqualified!

Over the next two days, we’ll be exploring Cluj and its surrounds, while Andrew and Angelo fight for our marks in the great IMO duel-off coordination. Hopefully everyone gets a 7 for each question they claim to have solved!

One thought on “Detective Tom and the mystery of the blood nose(s)

  1. We had clip on koalas in Paris in 1983, and I believe they were a thing in 1982. They may even go back to our first IMO team in 1981.
    Andrew K

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