Wednesday, 3 July 2013

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day Four

You may be wondering "why are you writing a blog post at 1:30am? Isn't that really early? Go to sleep!" Well, you see, I have to wake up at 2:00am for the bus to the airport to catch my flight, so... why go to sleep at all? Plus, I want to get this blog done before I go.

So, breakfast as usual, then off to the actual competition. I'm not sure why we had to have breakfast at 6:30 when we stood around in the lobby of the arena for an hour waiting for them to let us in, and then had to kill half an hour waiting for them to let us onto the competition floor, but such is life I suppose. We finally got to go to our workstations, and then had to wait another 20 minutes while they explained the rules and settings that they explained to us yesterday in the exact same way. But I guess reinforcement is good, especially if English is not your native tongue.

A picture of the Jubilee center where the competition was held.
The area where the competition was held
The two minute hold was released, and the competition started. There were eleven problems, and they were all really well constructed. Only one of them was never solved by any team, and one of them was solved by 107 out of 120 teams. Unfortunately, my team was not one of the ones that solved it. In fact, we solved no problems whatsoever, and I'm not ashamed to say that. We did our best, and we had fun with it. That was one of the most enjoyable problem sets that I've ever had, just because the problems were so much fun to think about. If you want to see the final scoreboard, you can go here.

The five hours of competition went by surprisingly quickly, and before we knew it, our time was up. We left the workstation (making sure to steal their nice pads of paper that they left us), and headed to the side room for the closing ceremonies. There was a bit of suspense to see which team won, and where the different teams ended up in the final scoreboard. They went through and showed the final position of every team, starting at the bottom and working their way up. As they showed how things had changed over the last hour, teams rose and fell as their solved problems were revealed. Rather unfortunately, no teams from North America were in the top 10 (CMU was number 11). Fun fact: the last North American team to win was the University of Waterloo from Canada in 1999. After that, it's all Russia, China, and Poland.

As expected from their position going into the final hour (and the speed at which they solved the other problems), the host team, St. Petersburg National Research University of IT, Mechanics, and Optics (ITMO) won. They actually won by a large margin, with 10 out of 11 problems solved, and 3 of the "first to solve this problem" awards. Crazy... Interestingly, second place was from China, third place was from Japan, and fourth place was from Taiwan. The Taiwan team was actually the first to solve any problem, in only 10 minutes. I mean, wow. Just wow.

The biggest complaint that I have about the closing ceremonies is that they had cheerleaders for some reason. I have no idea why they were there. They did a routine, and it made me feel like I was back in high school at a pep rally. Not really a good thing. It just felt out of place, and I was confused as to what purpose it fulfilled. My guess is that they want to show that this is a real sport or something, I don't know.

The tradition after the closing ceremonies is to go to a secret location set up by IBM and to do... something. This year, the secret location was a theater downtown, and, well, we basically went to the circus. It was pretty awesome. It was a stage show sort of thing, called Circus on the Water or something (when translated). There were trapeze artists, synchronized swimmers, a hula-hooper, some pirate clowns (it was all water themed, as the name suggests), and other staples like a tightrope juggler and a magician). They were all very good, and I enjoyed myself immensely, even if it did delay supper until after 8pm. But you don't notice here, because it's so bright. It was fun watching the circus from a sort of technical perspective, thinking "how did they do that," or "the clowns are out; they must be setting up something big for next." They did a really good job with the show, and the lighting in the building was used to great effect. Fog machines and lasers make a good combination.

The pool that was the center stage for the circus.
The circus ring, as it were
After the circus, we headed back to the Manége for dinner. By which I mean I got on the bus, and the rest of my team decided to walk back. If it wasn't so late, I would have walked with them, but I decided that it was important to get food in me as soon as possible, for my sake and the sake of everyone else around me as well. Unfortunately, there were so many people there for supper, that it was standing room only. For dinner. Not the most comfortable way to eat, let me tell you. I found a spot to sit at the back on a staircase, and ate my dinner there. It was fine though; I'm not complaining or anything. It was just... unfortunate.

After the rest of my team showed up, we headed out on a walk. We visited some of the same sites as the last walk we went on, but this time, I made sure to bring my camera. But the sun was setting (it was around midnight), so the night shots probably didn't turn out too well. There was a "bubble tea" place, and we bought drinks there. It's basically tea with fruit flavours in it and little paint-balls filled with fruit juice at the bottom of it. They come with massive straws so you can drink the paint-balls. We came back to the hotel eventually, and I started writing this post. I should probably go pack now.

The Church of the Savior on Blood at night.
The Church of the Savior on Blood at night
It's been a great time here in Russia. After wanting to come here for so long, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The beautiful buildings and scenery were amazing, and there is so much history here. I'm so grateful for this opportunity that I was given. Thank you all for supporting me on this amazing journey!

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