An informal meeting was held on the closing ceremony day of IOI 2011 to briefly discuss ideas how to promote interaction between students at the IOI (and indeed, also the leaders!). The meeting was convened by Sifaan Zavahir (Leader, Sri Lanka) and participants included Eljakim Schrivers (IC/Netherlands), Wolfgang Pohl (Germany), Mathias Hiron (France), Greg Lee (Taiwan, host 2014), Steffano Maggiolo (Italy, host 2012), Ahto Truu (Estonia), Pieter Walker (South Africa), Jakub Lacki (Poland)... who did I miss?
From the perspective of a participant, the competition itself lasts about 12 hours (2x 5 hours + appeals/results) - and as an international community (GA, IC, ISC) we spend a lot of effort making sure that that time runs really well (task selection/wording/translation, competition environment, grading, etc). But given that a typical IOI lasts 8 days, what about what happens in the other 7.5 days? Currently, some amount of cultural programs / sightseeing take place; however, based on some informal interactions with delegation leaders, it is clear that at least some people believe there could be more done during this time to promote interaction amongst students - because currently, the majority of students either only interact with their own team, or with a small circle of members of other teams.
Indeed, one of the IOI objectives is to foster friendship among students from diverse cultures. Further, for most students, this will be their only chance to meet people from 80 countries – wouldn’t it be nice if they got to know more people / cultures?
However, the reality is that just putting diverse people in a shared space does not automatically enable much interaction – esp. with programmers who tend to be a bit “reserved”
On Day 0 (Arrival Day)
Have various activity options going on in different spaces - e.g. drums, painting, origami, jenga, table tennis, chess, checkers, backgammon, etc. Ideally the activity options should be such that people can join/leave at different times. Students (and even leaders) can participate in any activity they wish (or rest, if they choose to). Depending on the IOI location, small sightseeing tours (e.g. leaving every hour) could also be an option.
On Day 1 (Opening ceremony day)
To conduct a facilitated get-to-know / ice-breaking session. The guides can be involved in conducting the games, although probably the activities themselves would need to be selected/prepared using professional involvement. Possibly this day can involve teams consisting of students from different countries, and could involve some kind of competition element (e.g. different tasks that earn the team points, and at the end of the day to give some token prize/s to winning teams)
Continue the activity options from Day 0
Also, the comments on the interaction also apply to the GA - many people have participated in several IOIs and know many members of the community, but what of new members? We already have an established tradition of a "Team Leader's Party" and perhaps we could have this earlier in the agenda - possibly on the night of the first competition day? Of course, we would also need a few amendments to make it more inclusive - e.g. also have non-alcoholic beverages available, maybe have some finger-food
There is also a possibility to organize a "Global Village" - this is where each country has a stall where they can present their country - food, posters, books, etc. This can even be a public event where people from the host city can visit and experience the culture of 80 countries. However, unlike the previous ideas (where the host can simply implement hem) it may require more discussion from the GA to proceed with this, as it will require support from the countries to make this a success. BTW Usually embassies are supportive in providing material for such events