International Chemistry Olympiad / IChO
First organized in 1968 by Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, the International Chemistry Olympiad has now become a professional competition with participants coming from a wide range of countries. Students of 67 countries from 5 continents attended the IChO in 2006; practically each developed and developing country, which takes education and research seriously, took part at the competition.

From the very beginning the aim of the IChO was to ensure motivation, international experience and contact possibilities for the most talented students of the attending countries. The excellence of the students is also shown by the fact that some of them are also representing their countries at other international competitions, like Physics and Informatics Olympiads.
The competition
The Olympiad is usually held in the beginning of July, after the university semester is finished. Except from the two exam days, the competitors are discovering the host country, while the time of the mentors is spent on preparing and evaluating the exams. Four students from each country attend the competition, which includes a theoretical and a practical exam. The exercises, based on an internationally accepted syllabus, are always prepared by the hosting country, whereby each Olympiad has a special, national flair. The competitors thus can get an impression about the professional traditions and important achievements of the hosting country. Thanks to the accompanying mentors the students receive the exercises translated to their mother tongue.

The theoretical exam based on high-school curricula, is often a hard nut to crack, even for a chemistry graduate. It is a challenge to solve the 8-10 theoretical problems within the 5 hours available to students. During this time their knowledge is often used to answer questions and complete calculations connected to state-of-the art research.

During the 5-hour practical exam the competitors usually solve – doing basic manipulationsexercises, which reveal how tightly chemistry is connected to our everyday life. The accuracy and results of the well-done experiments reflect how well the students working in the lab understood what they have to do. Collecting and organizing the observations, drawing conclusions and creativity together are the key to successful work.

Following the exam days the organizers and the mentors correct the answer sheets of the students separately, and after multiple rounds of arbitration the final result of the competition is settled. Students within the best ten percent of the results receive a gold medal, the next twenty percent a silver medal and the following thirty percent a bronze medal. Students having the highest theoretical, practical and total points receive a special award.
Hungary and the International Chemistry Olympiad
The Hungarian team has participated in each Olympiad held so far and generally with outstanding results. It just occasionally happened that one of our team did not receive any medal; in most cases we had gold medalists. With respect to the summary of points, the Hungarian team had been in the first quarter almost at each Olympiad. In addition to the olympic team, the 20-25 young students, who also participate in the 2 week long preparatory camp, usually get attached to science and chemistry for their whole life. Most of them practice chemistry professionally, some Olympiad winners from the first decades have now become leading researchers, professors or businessmen related to chemistry in Hungary and even abroad.

Hungary had the honor to organize an IChO three times: at the very beginning in 1970 and 1975, and later in 1987. As an active participant of the Olympic movement we gained the honor to organize the 40th International Chemistry Olympiad in 2008, as the finishing act of the centenary series of events of the Hungarian Chemical Society. The Eötvös Loránd University and the Ministry of Education and Culture are providing the background of the organization of IChO.

The Olympiad, welcoming more than 500 guests and employing 100-120 persons as organizing staff, is mainly financed by the hosting country, but a wide range of sponsors are usually also involved. The IChO is nowadays a media event. Some teams are followed by a camera crew, the Hungarian and also the international press reports from the main events, the medals are handed out by notabilities. Organizing a students Olympiad helps to make chemistry more popular and to enhance the image of the hosting country.