As if 20 hours in an aeroplane was not enough, the South African team at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) in Japan faced a typhoon and two earthquakes.

The South African team consisted of Tian Cilliers (Stellenbosch High School), Ralph McDougall (Curro Durbanville) Taariq Mowzer (Fairbairn College) and Emile Tredoux (Parklands College) took part in the 30th IOI in Tsubuka, Japan.

The four were the winners of the 2017 Standard Bank Computer Olympiad. The IOI is the international coding contest for high school learners that takes place in a different country every year. This year a record number of countries entered a record number of participants; 335 participants from 87 countries.

Five counties from Africa entered 19 participants altogether.

Mowzer, McDougall and Cilliers came third, fourth and sixth respectively among the 19 contestants from Africa.

At various stages of the contest each of the South African participants was in line for a bronze medal. However, it was not to be.

The IOI gives participants the opportunity to mix with other participants and to experience different cultures. This the team did. Cilliers states: “We immediately saw signs of Japanese culture when we arrived at the airport: self-service biometric stations and posters advertising Anime Tours.”

McDougall adds: “We were amazed at the opening ceremony when the holographic depiction of the IOI mascot came to life and welcomed us.”

Among the unanticipated experiences were a typhoon and two earthquakes.

A few contestants used different computer languages to solve the six problems, but most stuck to one language: C++. Of the contestants 332 used C++, seven used Java and only one used Pascal. Providing for Python for 2019 is being considered, but it is not sure if Python can deliver the result for all the test cases in the time allowed – sometimes less than half a second.

Among the 355 participants there were only two or three girls.