Past and future EGMOs
In Autumn 2009, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge approached the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust with an offer to do something to support mathematics enrichment for girls. A UKMT volunteer, Vicky Neale, had joined the college as Director of Studies in mathematics earlier that year, and the college sought to support her activities.
At the same time, UKMT was planning to send a team of girls to the China Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad in August 2010.
During the Christmas vacation of 2009, Geoff Smith had the idea of creating a European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad, possibly using Murray Edwards College as the inaugural site. The purpose was to give many girls an experience analogous to the China Girls’ MO, but without the arduous journeys, and the inevitable problems associated with raising recurrent funding for such major expeditions.
On 29 December 2009 Geoff circulated his ideas to the British Mathematical Olympiad committee, and after some reflection, the committee decided to support the proposal. After that, it was a matter of gaining support both from Murray Edwards College and from the Council of the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust, and both organizations proved generous and helpful. Both parties later found that they could attract financial support from other sources.
At IMO 2010 in Kazakhstan, a preliminary meeting was held, to determine if there was international interest in holding EGMO. Unsurprisingly, some countries (where there is no tradition of separate girls’ education) were wary of becoming involved, but there was clearly enough interest to proceed with the inaugural event.
UK participation in the China Girls’ MO 2010, the team being led by Ceri Fiddes and Alison Zhu, was a great success. Both Ceri and Alison returned full of enthusiasm for creating a European event. Ceri Fiddes would become the first EGMO Competition Director, and Alison would lead the UK team at the first EGMO.
The first public announcement and official launch of EGMO was made on 8 March 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s day.
Financial support was raised from various sources, and Ceri’s team engaged in detailed planning for EGMO 2012. Morale was given a great boost in May 2011 when Charles Leytem announced that Luxembourg would host EGMO 2013.
The inaugural EGMO was held at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge, UK, in April 2012, and was a great success. The UK has the advantage that it has a very large base of volunteers who can be called on for virtually any purpose, provided that it serves the cause of mathematics enrichment. Holding the event in Cambridge made it particularly easy to get helpers and co-ordinators, for the density of the volunteer population is very high there. We also had the benefit of some professional help by borrowing some people from the UKMT administrative HQ in Leeds.
Later in the month, there was an announcement at the Balkan Mathematical Olympiad that Turkey hoped to host EGMO 2014 (this was confirmed in September 2012).
At IMO 2012 the EGMO meeting was packed full, as many new countries sought to send teams. The Luxembourg organizers would have quite a job running EGMO 2013. In an effort to pass responsibility to the international community, an EGMO advisory board was formed, consisting of representatives of the first three (likely) host countries, chaired by Birgit van Dalen of the Netherlands (who had been responsible for co-ordinating much of the local organization of the highly successful IMO 2011). Once the competition has had time to develop and to acquire its own traditions, the intention is to make the EGMOAB democratic, along the lines of the IMOAB.
The EGMO website www.egmo.org went live on 19 August 2012 as a permanent online home for EGMO.
Geoff Smith, Bath, August 2012.
EGMO II was organized in Luxembourg on the 1050th anniversary of the foundation of Luxembourg.
Accommodation of the teams was at the Luxembourg City-Hostel in Paffendall, right below the Bock castle, the Lucilinburhuc.
According to history Count Siegfried of Luxembourg made the castle his residence the day after signing the deed on 7 April 963.
But legend has it that the Bock castle appeared magically in 963 on the morning after the wedding of count Siegfried of Luxembourg to Melusina. On her terms of marriage, Melusina required one day of absolute privacy each week. But Siegfried could not resist temptation, and on one of the forbidden days he spied on her in her bath and discovered her to be a mermaid. When Melusina caught sight of him she immediately sank into the rock… to resurface briefly every seven years as a beautiful woman.
Thus 2013 is also the 150th anniversary of the reappearance of Melusina.
PS: Joseph-Louis Lagrange (25 January 1736 – 10 April 1813), born Giuseppe Luigi Lagrancia was an Italian mathematician and astronomer born in Turin, Piedmont, who lived part of his life in Prussia and part in France.
Charles Leytem, Luxembourg, April 2013.
The 3rd EGMO aimed to accommodate as many official and guest countries as possible. 22 European and 7 guest teams with a total of 110 contestants participated, and hopefully everyone had an enjoyable time.
EGMO 2014 took place at Belconti Resort Hotel in Belek, Antalya. Following the tradition set by the first two EGMOs, the Olympiad opened on a rainy day. Luckily the weather was fine, although a bit breezy, for the boat trip of the closing day.
Not only every EGMO Problem Committee faces the challenge of composing a well-balanced exam in terms of topics and difficulty levels of problems from the proposals they receive, but probably it will also take a period of experimentation for an EGMO exam style to emerge. Charles Leytem, who chaired the Problem Selection Committee of EGMO 2013, had this succinct review of this year’s papers and suggestions for the future contests posted on the EGMO 2014 Facebook page: “Back home, enjoying the Luxembourg sun, playing with the EGMO problems. Enjoying P1, (P2), P3, P5. I don’t think we should make EGMO easier, rather the opposite. We nearly had a full score, but the girl was a bit careless, and sadly lost 2 points. In future we should remain very careful about what we set as P1… and a bit less about P6 maybe, but still this should be an interesting and challenging problem.”
As a first for an EGMO alumna, Michelle Sweering, who was a contestant in all three EGMOs, won a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad 2014. Also at IMO 2014, the EGMO founder Geoff Smith was elected the Chairman of the IMO Advisory Board.
In August 2014 Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal. Mirzakhani was a mathematical olympian with gold medals both in IMO 1994 and IMO 1995.
Azer Kerimov, Turkey, February 2015.
The 6th EGMO was organised in Zürich by imosuisse, the association organising the Swiss Mathematical Olympiad. There were 33 European and 11 guest teams. EGMO grew much faster than expected. Still all teams interested in joining reasonably early could be invited. So a total of 168 contestants competed.
This year we tried in particular to invite female coordinators and managed that 13 out of 28 were female. Four out of them were former EGMO contestants. We hope that future EGMOs will recruit many young talents in our association, so that the next EGMO in Switzerland can also rely on women in problem selection.
Other efforts were taken in organising activities that encourage interaction between the teams, for example a scavenger hunt in mixed groups or dancing.
On behalf of the organising committee, consisting of Andreas Bärtschi, Jana Cslovjecsek, Jonas Kühne and me, I thank everyone involved in this year’s EGMO for the friendly atmosphere and the enthusiasm. In particular, I would like to thank all our volunteers, be it for academics, be it for organisation, be it for invigilation, for making this EGMO possible!
Viviane Kehl, Switzerland, April 2017.