24 September 2020 Department of Computer Science

24 September 2020 – Yesterday marked the end of the 32nd International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI2020), which was hosted by the NUS School of Computing from 13 to 19 September 2020.

Supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), this marked the first time the prestigious programming competition was held online, after the original in-person competition was deferred to 2021 due to COVID-19. A virtual closing ceremony was held over YouTube yesterday to celebrate the successful end of this year’s event.

IOI is one of the main International Science Olympiads held annually. It seeks to discover, challenge and recognise exceptional high school students for their talent in the field of informatics, as well as to encourage youth interest in the field. Each contestant competes individually to maximise their score by solving three algorithmic problems within five hours.

This year, 343 contestants from 87 countries and regions around the world competed to solve algorithmic problems that test their skills in informatics—such as problem analysis, design of algorithms and data structures, programming, and testing.

After two days of competition, William Lin, representing the United States of America, was crowned the world champion for IOI2020.

“I was actually surprised that I scored 600 points [and ended up at the top of the leaderboard]. I did not expect my solution to pass, but it actually did for some reason, which was great,” said William.

“I just simply had more practice. This year, my strategy was a bit more refined than last year. There was also the factor of luck – I think the tests were in my favour,” he added.

A picture of William Lin and IOI President Greg Lee sitting around 1 metre apart, with an electronic screen in between them that displays the IOI2020 logo along with the words '32nd International Olympiad in Informatics Singapore'. They are smiling while looking at each other.William (left), with IOI President Greg Lee in a post-win interview.

Including William, there were a total of 29 gold medallists* this year, as well as 57 silver medallists and 85 bronze medallists.

An unprecedented challenge
Originally slated to be held in Singapore from 19 to 26 July 2020, the competition had to be moved online due to global travel restrictions that have been implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the participants, as well as the organising team had to quickly adapt to this unforeseen situation.

“We faced the risks of hosting an online IOI, as it had not been done before. We chose to do it because for many of the contestants around the world, this is the last chance they have to take part in an IOI. They have trained hard to prepare for it, and some of them are hoping to use their competition results for university and scholarship applications. It would be a huge blow to them if we didn’t hold an IOI this year,” said IOI2020 Executive Director, Prof Tan Sun Teck.

However, it seems that the change in format did not dampen the contestants’ excitement in the least.

“This is a unique IOI because it’s held online, which is much different from last year. It’s been a fun experience,” said Rajarshi Basu from team India, who is also a first-year student at NUS Computing.

Edbert Geraldy Cangdinata, from team Indonesia, agreed: “The contest was intense, however the problems were very interesting, to say the least.”

“I’d like to thank Singapore, as well as the organising committees, for graciously hosting IOI2020 online, despite the current situation,” he added.

IOI2020 Deputy Director, Dr Steven Halim, thanked the members of the organising committees and participants for their hard work and effort put in for this year’s competition.

“It was a huge-risk, but fortunately it went reasonably well,” said Dr Halim.

“Although it was unfortunate that we were not able to meet everyone and show them around Singapore this time, we hope to do so during next year’s competition, which will also be held here,” he added.

Prof Tan added: “I would like to thank all the team members for a job well done. Without them, we would never be able to run the event successfully.”

“We also managed to wrap up IOI2020 successfully thanks to the support that we’ve received from President Halimah Yacob, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, NUS President Tan Eng Chye, as well as our NUS Computing Dean Mohan Kankanhalli. We are also very thankful for the support we received from the Ministry of Education, Singapore Tourism Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, as well as all our sponsors,” he said.


*IOI2020 gold medallists are eligible for a new scholarship to study at NUS Computing (terms and conditions apply). For more information, contact Dr Steven Halim at stevenha@comp.nus.edu.sg.