HISTORY OF IPhO:
The History below is extracted from the article entitled “INTERNATIONAL PHYSICS OLYMPIADS (IPhO) THEIR HISTORY, STRUCTURE AND FUTURE” by Professor Waldemar Gorzkowski. The full article is given as PDF.
The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) is an international physics competition for secondary school students. The first such competition was organised by Prof. Czes?aw ?cis?owski in Warsaw (Poland) in 1967. Since that time the International Physics Olympiads have been organised, with few exceptions that will be discussed later, in a different country every year.
The possibility of organising the International Physics Olympiads was suggested before 1967. It was clear that the International Physics Olympiads should be an annual event like the International Mathematics Olympiad, which was already in existence; organised in 1959. The success of the International Mathematics Olympiads, and the positive experience gained from its organisation, greatly stimulated physicists involved in physics education and interested in comparison of knowledge of the best students from different countries. The hard work and dedication of three Professors deserves particular praise: Czes?aw ?cis?owski from Poland, Rostislav Kostial from Czechoslovakia and Rudolf Kunfalvi from Hungary. Each of them investigated various possibilities of organising the first International Physics Olympiad in his country. It was concluded that Poland offered the best conditions and the most favourable atmosphere for such an event. This, together with a great personal contribution by Prof. Czes?aw ?cis?owski , resulted in the first international physics competition that took place in Warsaw in 1967.
One should underline here an essential difference between the International Mathematics Olympiads and the International Physics Olympiads. At the International Physics Olympiads the participants solve not only theoretical problems but also the experimental problems. For this reason the organisation of the competition in physics is more complicated and more expensive.
Several months before the first IPhO took place, invitations were sent to all the Central European countries. The invitations were accepted by Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania (five countries including Poland, the organiser of the competition). Each team consisted of three secondary school students accompanied by one supervisor. The competition was arranged along the lines of the final stage of the Polish Physics Olympiad: one day for theoretical problems and one day for carrying out an experiment. One obvious difference was that the participants had to wait for the scripts to be marked. During the waiting period the organisers arranged two excursions by plane toKraków and to Gda?sk. At the first IPhO the students had to solve four theoretical problems and one experimental problem.
The second Olympiad was organised by Prof. Rudolf Kunfalvi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1968. Eight countries took part in that competition – The German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia joined the participating countries. Again, each country was represented by three high school students and one supervisor. Sometime before the second IPhO a preliminary version of the Statutes and the Syllabus were produced. Later the International Board consisting of the supervisors of the teams that participated in the competition officially accepted these documents. This took place during a special meeting organised in Brno, Czechoslovakia, several months after the second IPhO. It is proper to underline that, in spite of various changes made later, all the basic features of the first Statutes remain valid to this day.
The third IPhO was arranged by Prof. Rostislav Kostial in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1969. On that occasion each team consisted of five students and two supervisors. The competition in Brno was organised according to the official Statutes accepted earlier.
The next Olympiad took place in Moscow, Soviet Union, in 1970. Each country was represented by six students and two supervisors. During that Olympiad several small changes were introduced into the Statutes.
Since the fifth IPhO, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1971, each team has consisted of five pupils and two supervisors.
The sixth IPhO was held in Bucharest, Romania, in 1972. It was an important event because among the participants there were present for the first time, the first non-European country (Cuba) and the first Western country (France). At this Olympiad the International Board decided to introduce several changes into the Statutes (however, no written proposal of the changes was produced).
Unfortunately, in 1973 there was no Olympiad as no country was willing to organise it, although the number of participating countries exceeded the number of the past Olympiads. When it seemed likely that the International Physics Olympiads would die, Poland took the initiative of reviving the international competition and organised the seventh IPhO in Warsaw in 1974 (for the second time). On this occasion the Federal Republic of Germany was invited to attend the competition for the first time. This fact certainly had a symbolic significance.
Before the competition, the Organising Committee introduced into the Statutes the verbal changes discussed and accepted in Bucharest. The new version of the Statutes was sent to all the countries invited to the competition for acceptance or comments. The wording suggested by the Organising Committee was accepted (with only one voice against). The most important changes were as follows:
- the number of theoretical problems was reduced from four to three
- the number of working languages (previously Russian, English, German and French was reduced to two, English and Russian
- there should be one rest day between the two examination days
- the criteria for prizes should be expressed in percentages with respect to the highest score received in a given competition (formerly range of mark for prizes had been determined with respect to the highest theoretically possible score).
In 1975, 1976 and 1977 the International Physics Olympiads took place in the German Democratic Republic for the first time, Hungary, for the second time, and Czechoslovakia, for the second time, respectively.
In spring 1977 in Ulan-Bator, Mongolia, there was a Conference of the Ministers of Education of the, so-called, Socialist Countries. The Conference decided that the socialist countries would organise the International Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics Olympiads every two years. Some people treated this decision as a political one, aiming to reduce contacts between pupils from East and West. This aspect should not be ignored, but certainly the decision was a consequence of the increasing number of participating countries and rapidly increasing organisational costs. Regardless of real reasons, according to common interpretation the above decision was commonly interpreted as an implicit invitation to other countries to take charge of the international scientific Olympiads. This explains why in 1978 and in 1980 there were no Olympiads; no non-socialist country was ready to organise the competition without a prior, necessary long-time preparation effort. The first IPhO organised by non-socialist country was the IPhO that took place in Malente, FRG, in 1982. It was due to very efficient work done by Dr. Gunter Lind. Then, for the first time, the participants solved, under agreement of the International Board, two experimental problems in place of one, previously set.
In 1983 the IPhO was organised, for the second time, in Bucharest, Romania. Here the number of problems prepared by the organisers for the pupils much exceeded the number of problems mentioned in the Statutes, and the International Board spent a lot of time discussing the Statutes and the Syllabus and the future of the Olympiads.
As regards the future of the International Physics Olympiads, there was only one important decision made in Bucharest. It was decided that the next competition would take place in Sweden in 1984. Unfortunately, there were no volunteers to organise the Olympiads in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In such a situation, upon suggestion of Dr. Gunter Lind (FRG), the International Board decided to establish a permanent Secretariat (consisting of one person: Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski) for co-ordination of the long-term work of the International Physics Olympiads and for popularising the Olympiads. At the same time it was decided that the Secretariat together with Prof. Lars Silverberg (Sweden), the organiser of the next competition in Sigtuna, Sweden, in 1984, should prepare a new version of the Statutes.
The project of revising the Statutes was completed and the new Statutes were accepted at the ninth IPhO. There are, in fact, only minor differences between the old and new versions. The most essential difference is that the new version legalised the existence of the Secretariat of the International Physics Olympiad, consisting of two persons (in terminology used recently: President and Secretary – Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski and Dr. Andrzej Kotlicki2. ). Another change instituted was that at the experimental part of the competition the participants could be set one or two experimental tasks, earlier only one was allowed. One can say that the new version differed from the old one primarily in wording. The new version was much more precise.
The delegation heads, consisting of two persons from each participating country, form the, so-called, International Board, which is the highest authority of the International Physics Olympiads. The International Board does not change significantly from year to year. The majority of members know each other very well. In the International Board there is a very pleasant, friendly atmosphere. Thanks to this attitude, and good will, many difficult problems can be solved without great effort. This is why the Secretariat was able, for instance, to solve the problem of organisation of the International Physics Olympiads in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In 1985 the International Physics Olympiad took place in Portoro? (Yugoslavia), in 1986 – in London-Harrow (Great Britain) and in 1987 – in Jena (GDR).
Here we would like to emphasise that the United Kingdom organised the XVII IPhO in London-Harrow within only two years from its entry into the competition! It was made possible through hard work and great enthusiasm of Dr. Cyril Isenberg, Dr. Guy Bagnall and Mr. William Jarvis.
Due to joint efforts of the Secretariat and the organisers of the competitions in 1985 (Prof. Anton Moljk and Dr. Bojan Golli) and in 1986 (Dr. Guy Bagnall and Dr. Cyril Isenberg) a new version of the Syllabus was produced. Its theoretical part was accepted in Portoro? in 1985 and first applied in London-Harrow in 1986. Later, following a suggestion of the International Board, the Secretariat prepared a new, so called, column version of the Syllabus. This version shows not only the breadth of the physics contents but also the depth of approach required. The Syllabus of the International Physics Olympiads is indeed very modern. Nevertheless, the International Board is always ready to introduce improvements in the Statutes and Syllabus and does this when necessary.
The competition has run every year subsequently – the list of participating and organising countries is shown in Tables 1 and 2.
Following suggestion of Dr. Rodney Jory (Australia) in 1996 the International Board has decided to create an Advisory Committee convened at the President. At present the Advisory Committee consists of 14 persons with great experience in the “Olympiad work”.
Every year some changes in the Statutes are made. Usually they are minor changes. Nevertheless, sometimes the changes are major. The last such change was made in 1999. The Statutes have been split into two parts; proper Statutes, and Regulations. Changes in the part called “Statutes” require qualified majority when voting, while changes in the part called “Regulations” require a simple majority only. In this way the most important points of the “Olympiad law” have been separated from the points that are of less importance. The operation of splitting the Statutes was the most important change since 1984 and was taken with care. The idea of splitting, formulated by Dr. Rodney Jory (Australia) in 1997, after preliminary discussion (almost only by e-mail) in 1997/8 was accepted by the International Board in 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Then a subcommission consisting of four persons was created: Dr. Gunter Lind, Dr. Cyril Isenberg, Dr. Vidar Agustsson and Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski. The subcommission prepared, mainly due to work of Dr. Gunter Lind, a version of the split Statutes, which later was discussed at a special meeting of the Advisory Committee in Warsaw in March 1999. After that the version accepted by the Advisory Committee was accepted by the International Board at the thirtieth IPhO in Padova, Italy.
The last versions of the Statutes, Regulations, Syllabus and other Olympiad documents may be downloaded from the Olympic home page http://www.jyu.fi/ipho localized in Finland and maintained by Prof. Maija Ahtee.
PARTICIPATION IN THE INTERNATIONAL PHYSICS OLYMPIADS
Stated on June 01, 2014
PAST IPhO PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
IPhO 1967 (I Warsaw, Poland)
IPhO 1968 (II Budapest, Hungary)
IPhO 1969 (III Brno, Czechoslovakia)
IPhO 1970 (IV Moscow, Soviet Union)
IPhO 1971 (V Sofia, Bulgaria)
IPhO 1972 (VI Bucharest, Romania)
IPhO 1974 (VII Warsaw, Poland)
IPhO 1975 (VIII Guestrow, GDR)
IPhO 1976 (IX Budapest, Hungary)
IPhO 1977 (X Hradec Kralove, Czechoslovakia)
IPhO 1979 (XI Moscow, Soviet Union)
IPhO 1981 (XII Varna, Bulgaria)
IPhO 1982 (XIII Malente, FRG)
IPhO 1983 (XIV Bucharest, Romania)
IPhO 1984 (XV Sigtuna, Sweden)
IPhO 1985 (XVI Portoroz, SFR Yugoslavia)
IPhO 1986 (XVII London-Harrow, Great Britain)
IPhO 1987 (XVIII Jena, GDR)
IPhO 1988 (XIX Bad Ischl, Austria)
IPhO 1989 (XX Warsaw, Poland)
IPhO 1990 (XXI Groningen, The Netherlands)
IPhO 1991 (XXII Havana, Cuba)
IPhO 1992 (XXIII Helsinki-Espoo, Finland)
IPhO 1993 (XXIV Williamsburg, USA)
IPhO 1994 (XXV Beijing, China)
IPhO 1995 (XXVI Canberra, Australia)
IPhO 1996 (XXVII Oslo, Norway)
IPhO 1997 (XXVIII Sudbury, Canada)
IPhO 1998 (XXIX Reykjavik, Iceland)
IPhO 1999 (XXX Padova, Italy)
IPhO 2000 (XXXI Leicester, Great Britain)
IPhO 2001 (XXXII Antalya, Turkey)
IPhO 2002 (XXXIII Nusa Dua, Indonesia)
IPhO 2003 (XXXIV Taipei, Taiwan)
IPhO 2004 (XXXV Pohang, South Korea)
IPhO 2005 (XXXVI Salamanca, Spain)
IPhO 2006 (XXXVII Singapore, Singapore)
IPhO 2007 (XXXVIII Isfahan, Iran)
IPhO 2008 (XXXIX Hanoi, Vietnam)
IPhO 2009 (XL Merida, Mexico)
IPhO 2010 (XLI Zagreb, Croatia)
IPhO 2011 (XLII Bangkok, Thailand)
IPhO 2012 (XLIII Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia)
IPhO 2013 (XLIV Copenhagen, Denmark)
IPhO 2014 (XLIV Kazakhstan, Astana)
IPhO 2015 (Mumbai)
IPhO 2016 (Switzerland)
IPhO 2017 (Indonesia)
IPhO 2018 (Portugal)
IPhO 2019 (Israel)