Welcoming Address by the Federal Minister of Education and Research Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB On the occasion of the Closing Ceremony of the International Mathematical Olympiad in Bremen on 21 July 2009 Check against delivery For release: Beginning of the speech 1 Ladies and Gentlemen, 2009 is a year rich in anniversary celebrations in the Federal Republic of Germany! The Federal Republic was founded 60 years ago. And the wall which divided the two German states was brought down 20 years ago. Today we are also celebrating an anniversary here in Bremen: The 50th anniversary of the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). 50 years IMO are also 50 years of German, European and world history. This is the fourth time that the IMO has taken place in Germany, but it is only the second time that it has been held in the Federal Republic. On the first two occasions, the young mathematicians met in what was then the GDR. The idea that the best young mathematicians should measure their strengths in games in the Olympic spirit came from Romania. In those days, Romania was a member of the Warsaw Pact – which is why all the participants in the first IMO in 1959 came from Warsaw Pact countries. Within the space of half a century, what began as a contest between a small number of states with common political ideas has become a global open competition for the brightest mathematics enthusiasts. This was not easy. 2 Frontiers of barbed wire and stone were erected during the Cold War – in Germany in particular. People were also kept apart by the walls in their minds. Nevertheless, the IMO became a movement which extended far beyond the Warsaw Pact as more and more non-member countries began to take part in the contest. The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago and with it the frontier which divided Germany, Europe and the whole world into two camps. The IMO has become even more international since then. Distinguished participants, As competitors in the Mathematical Olympiad, you are not only part of the fifty-year success story of the IMO: You are also part of a much older and more important tradition – the tradition of great mathematicians world-wide. For many of you, this is your first time in Germany. But most of you will probably have heard of German mathematicians: Leibniz, Gauß and Hilbert are just three of those who have become world famous outside the circle of maths specialists and who have influenced our way of thinking and solving problems. Mathematics is a fascinating science – and at the same time it is also tremendously important. It provides the basis for the natural sciences and plays a key role in technology and economics. Mathematics is the driver of technical progress. That is why we want to imbue young people in particular with enthusiasm for mathematics. 3 The IMO provides an important contribution towards this goal. Five of the last ten mathematicians to receive a Fields 1 Medal in recognition of their work – the most prestigious scientific award for mathematicians – were also IMO winners. As participants in the IMO, you not only represent the academic future of mathematics. Over the last few days, you have also shown that you are able to take a sporting approach to mathematics and to test yourselves fairly against the best in your field. I would like to sincerely congratulate you on this achievement and I very much hope that you maintain your pleasure in mathematics. All efforts to promote talent should focus on this mixture of outstanding performance, fairness and pleasure in solving difficult problems. My thanks go to all those who have made the IMO possible. You all – teachers, parents, honorary helpers, heads of delegations – encourage young people to enjoy mathematics and to perform well and behave fairly in the face of competition. I would like to express my sincere thanks. 1. The Fields Medal is the highest scientific award for mathematicians. The International Congress of Mathematicians has awarded the medal as the "International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics" to at least two young mathematicians since 1936. The congress usually takes place every four years. 4 I am particularly pleased to congratulate the prize-winners of the IMO 2009. They have performed exceptionally well in a challenging mathematics contest. On behalf of the Federal Government, I would like to say "congratulations". I hope that you will continue to enjoy mathematics and wish you all the best for the future. Thank you.
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