Wednesday 1st August 2012

Stephen McConnachie (Manager): IMO 2012 ArgentinaReport

It was my pleasure and privilege to accompany the 2012 NZIMO team to Argentina, along with Team Leader Chris Tuffley and Deputy Team Leader Peter Nelson. The company of the students and leaders, the students’ performance in the competition and the experience of the trip itself were all outstanding.

Before departing New Zealand, the team assembled in Auckland for some preliminary training at Grafton Hall. This year the team did not live onsite for the training, rather they came in during the day for several days to train and stayed offsite in their own homes. The flight to Argentina went relatively smoothly, the only minor hiccup being that some of the team’s luggage was not checked all the way through to Buenos Aires when the airport staff checked us in, so I had to do some negotiating to get the bags back and retagged before we departed Auckland.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires we joined the Dutch team for a week of training together. Several days into this week of training, Chris and the Dutch leader Quintijn Puite left to join the IMO jury in a secret location. The students thoroughly enjoyed this week of training, getting to know each other and the Dutch team better, and exploring Buenos Aires. The hostel accommodation was adequate (Natalia in particular appreciated her single room with its double bed and wifi access, a byproduct of being the only female on the team!), and the food was pretty consistent with the food we had elsewhere in Argentina – a lot of cheese and dulce de leche, and not a lot of flavour!

A highlight of the week in Buenos Aires was the walking tour through Buenos Aires, led by the Dutch leaders. We went through the Plaza de Mayo, which is the town square in front of the presidential building, the Casa Rosada (pink house); through a huge cathedral; round the Buenos Aires CBD; through La Boca, the famously colourful maritime district; and past many many (many) monuments and statues. The proliferation of monuments and political protests in Argentina matched that of the cheese and dulce de leche.

The bus trip from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata was nothing short of luxurious. Never before have I heard teenagers complaining about having to get off a bus! The IMO itself in Mar del Plata was successful, and the students behaved and performed well. We were often told details of events fifteen minutes before said events… but overall the week was enjoyable. The competition proved difficult for our students but they prevailed, gaining two Bronze medals and four Honourable Mentions.

Highlights from the week of the IMO included the fantastic guide provided by the IMO, the trip to the Mar del Plata aquarium, especially the dolphin shows (though the pouring rain and freezing cold was not ideal!), the tango classes at the IMO hotel, and the churros we purchased on our final day in Mar del Plata. Lowlights consisted mainly of the loss of Peter’s iPad on the bus to Mar del Plata, which was not recovered despite significant effort and time on the phone to the bus company and insurance.

All in all the trip was very successful, and the NZMOC can be proud of the students’ conduct and performance while representing New Zealand at the IMO. I would like to thank Chris for his leadership of the team; Peter for his help and companionship throughout the trip; our guide, Mailene; and of course the NZMOC for giving me the opportunity to travel with the team.