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What is geography?


     Sue Lomas

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What is the International Geography Olympiad?

The International Geography Olympiad (iGeo) is an annual competition for the best 16 to 19 year old geography students from all over the world. Students chosen to represent their countries are the very best, chosen from thousands of students who participate enthusiastically in their own National Geography Olympiads. The iGeo consists of three parts: a written test, a multimedia test and substantial fieldwork requiring observation, leading to cartographic representation and geographical analysis. The programme also includes poster presentations by teams, cultural exchanges, and time for students to get to know their fellow students and explore the host city.

The aims of the Olympiad are to:

  • stimulate active interest in geographical and environmental studies among young people;
  • contribute positively to debate about the importance of geography as a senior secondary school subject by drawing attention to the quality of geographical knowledge, skills and interests among young people;
  • facilitate social contacts between young people from different countries and in doing so, contribute to the understanding between nations.

The International Geography Olympiads are held under the auspices of the International Geographical Union (IGU), through the IGU Olympiad Task Force. The members of the Task Force are:

  • co-chair Mrs Susan Lomas OBE, DL (United Kingdom)
  • co-chair Dr Su-Min Shen (Taiwan)
  • past local organiser Wang Min (China)
  • current local organiser Nikola Srzentic (Serbia)
  • future local organiser Dr Lynn Moorman (Canada)
  • steering committee member Dr Dubrayka Spevek (Croatia)
  • steering committee member Ms Li Ling Tan (Singapore)
  • steering committee member Professor Alexey Naumov (Russia)
  • steering committee member Mr Tomasz Sawicki (Poland)

During the 1994 IGU Congress in Prague, geographers from Poland and the Netherlands launched the idea of an International Geography Competition (iGeo) or Olympiad for students between 15 and 19 years of age. The first iGeo was held in 1996 in the Hague, The Netherlands, with five participating countries, the second in 1998 in Lisbon, Portugal, and the third in 2000 in Seoul, South Korea. The 2002 IGU congress in South Africa hosted the fourth iGeo in Durban. Sixteen countries took part in the fifth iGeo in 2004 in Gdansk, Poland. The sixth was in Brisbane, Australia, in 2006 with 23 teams participating. In 2008 in Carthage, Tunisia, 24 teams participated in the seventh iGeo. The 2010 iGeo was in Taipei with 30 teams. At the ninth Olympiad in 2012 in Cologne, Germany, there were 32 teams.

Up until 2012, the Olympiads were held every two years. In the intervening years some regional Olympiads were held. These included the Central European Regional Geography Olympiads, and the Asia Pacific Regional Geography Olympiad held in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The IGU decided to have Regional Conferences every year between the 2012 Congress in Cologne and the 2016 Congress in Beijing. In 2013, 31 teams completed in the 10 International Geography Olympiad at Kyoto, Japan. The eleventh Olympiad was held in 2014 in Kraków, Poland. The twelfth 2015 Olympiad was offered in Tver, near Moscow in Russia, and the 2016 the Olympiad was in Beijing, China. In 2017, the iGeo will be in Belgrade in Serbia.

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