International Physics Olympiad

The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) is an annual physics competition for high school students. It is one of the International Science Olympiads. The first IPhO was held in Warsaw, Poland in 1967.

Each national delegation is made up of at most five student competitors plus two leaders, selected on a national level. Observers may also accompany a national team. The students compete as individuals, and must sit for intensive theoretical and laboratory examinations. For their efforts the students can be awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals or an honourable mention.

The theoretical examination lasts 5 hours and consists of three questions. Usually these questions involve more than one part. The practical examination may consist of one laboratory examination of five hours, or two, which together take up the full five hours.


Students at the opening ceremony of the 2018 IPhO in Portugal
Singaporean IPhO team with the current IPhO president Rajdeep Singh Rawat

The idea of creating the International Physics Olympiad was conceived in Eastern Bloc countries, inspired by the 1959 established International Mathematical Olympiad. Poland seemed to offer the best conditions at the time, and so the first IPhO was held in Warsaw in 1967, organized by Prof. Czesław Ścisłowski.[1] Some months prior to the competition, all Central European countries were invited, and the five countries Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania participated. Each country sent a delegation of three students and one supervisor. Already in this first edition, the competition consisted of two exams, one theoretical and one experimental, and the students went on excursions while their exams were marked.

The second IPhO was held in Hungary, with the additional participation of the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Subsequent editions were carried out in the following years in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Romania. At that sixth IPhO in 1972, France joined the competition as the first Western country and Cuba as the first non-European country.[2] With growing size and organizational effort (and no participation fee at that time), no country was willing to arrange an IPhO in 1973. To hold up the competition, Poland volunteered to host another IPhO in 1974, but the problem soon reappeared: With the Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden and Finland, additional Western countries had joined the IPhO, and the Eastern Bloc countries decided in 1977 that they would only host every other IPhO. As the Western countries were not yet ready with the necessary long-term preparation effort, no IPhO was held in 1978 and in 1980. The first Western Country to host the IPhO was the Federal Republic of Germany in 1982. Since then, the IPhO has been held regularly every year except 2020,[3] and the organization has become a prestigious endeavor that many countries are happy to take.[4]

The number of participating countries has grown steadily over the years. After the initial set of Eastern Bloc countries, many European countries joined since the 1970s, as well as Asian and American countries starting in the 1980s. Between 1990 and 2000 alone, the total number increased from 32 countries to 63. African countries have been joining since the 2000s.[5] After accession into IPhO, every country must notify the others within five years about its willingness to host the IPhO.[6] The venue of the Olympiad is decided for years ahead. With over 80 actively participating countries today, each IPhO is a big event with around 700 attendees and a total budget of several million euros.[7] A small fraction of the cost is covered by a participation fee of around €3500 per team, which was introduced in 1997 on a voluntary basis and made obligatory in 2013.[8]

The formal structure of the IPhO was established in 1968 at a dedicated meeting in Czechoslovakia, soon after the second IPhO.[2] There the statutes and the syllabus[6] were officially accepted by the International Board, which consists of the delegation heads from all participating countries.[9] The team size was finally set to five students in 1971, and in 1976 the number of experimental problems was set to one or two, while there are three theoretical problems in each competition. In 1984, the IPhO established a permanent secretariat and a president's office. This position was held by Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski until the 2007 Olympiad, then Prof. Maija Ahtee (2007–2008), Prof. Hans Jordens (2008–2018) and Prof. Rajdeep Singh Rawat (2018 onwards).[9] Since 1984 the IPhO has collaborated with UNESCO for moral support and publicity. An advisory committee, consisting of 14 experienced people, was introduced in 1996.

Distribution of medalsEdit

gold medal of the IPhO 2019

The minimal scores required for Olympiad medals and honourable mentions are chosen by the organizers according to the following rules: A gold medal should be awarded to the top 8% of the participants. A silver medal or better should be awarded to the top 25%. A bronze medal or better should be awarded to the top 50%. An honourable mention or better should be awarded to the top 67%. All other participants receive certificates of participation. The participant with the highest score (absolute winner) receives a special prize, in addition to a gold medal.[6]


Number Year Host Country Host City Absolute Winner Score
1 1967 Poland Warsaw Sándor Szalay (Hungary) 39/40
2 1968 Hungary Budapest Tomasz Kręglewski (Poland)
Mojmír Simerský (Czechoslovakia)
3 1969 Czechoslovakia Brno Mojmír Šob (Czechoslovakia) 48/48
4 1970 Soviet Union Moscow Mikhaïl Volochine (Soviet Union) 57/60
5 1971 Bulgaria Sofia Karel Šafařík (Czechoslovakia)
Ádám Tichy-Rács (Hungary)
6 1972 Romania Bucharest Zoltán Szabó (Hungary) 57/60
1973 Not held as no country was willing to organise it.[10]
7 1974 Poland Warsaw Jarosław Deminet (Poland)
Jerzy Tarasiuk (Poland)
8 1975 East Germany Güstrow Sergey Korshunov (Soviet Union) 43/50
9 1976 Hungary Budapest Rafał Łubis (Poland) 47.5/50
10 1977 Czechoslovakia Hradec Králové Jiří Svoboda (Czechoslovakia) 49/50
1978 Not held as no non-socialist country was ready to organise the competition without a prior, necessary long-time preparation effort.[10]
11 1979 Soviet Union Moscow Maksim Tsipine (Soviet Union) 43/50
1980 Not held as no non-socialist country was ready to organise the competition without a prior, necessary long-time preparation effort.[10]
12 1981 Bulgaria Varna Aleksandr Goutine (Soviet Union) 47/50
13 1982 West Germany Malente Manfred Lehn (West Germany) 43/50
14 1983 Romania Bucharest Ivan Ivanov (Bulgaria) 43.75/50
15 1984 Sweden Sigtuna Jan de Boer (Netherlands)
Sorin Spânoche (Romania)
16 1985 Yugoslavia Portorož Patrik Španĕl (Czechoslovakia) 42.5/50
17 1986 United Kingdom London-Harrow Oleg Volkov (Soviet Union) 37.9/50
18 1987 East Germany Jena Catalin Malureanu (Romania) 49/50
19 1988 Austria Bad Ischl Conrad McDonnell (United Kingdom) 39.38/50
20 1989 Poland Warsaw Steven Gubser (United States) 46.33/50
21 1990 Netherlands Groningen Alexander H. Barnett (United Kingdom) 45.7/50
22 1991 Cuba Havana Timour Tchoutenko (Soviet Union) 48.2/50
23 1992 Finland Helsinki Chen Han (China) 44/50
24 1993 United States Williamsburg Zhang Junan (China)
Harald Pfeiffer (Germany)
25 1994 China Beijing Yang Liang (China) 44.3/50
26 1995 Australia Canberra Yu Haitao (China) 95/100
27 1996 Norway Oslo Liu Yurun (China) 47.5/50
28 1997 Canada Sudbury Sayed Mehdi Anvari (Iran) 47.25/50
29 1998 Iceland Reykjavík Chen Yuao (China) 47.5/50
30 1999 Italy Padova Konstantin Kravtsov (Russia) 49.8/50
31 2000 United Kingdom Leicester[11] Lu Ying (China)[11] 43.4/50[11]
32 2001 Turkey Antalya Daniyar Nourgaliev (Russia) 47.55/50
33 2002 Indonesia Bali Ngoc Duong Dang (Vietnam) 45.40/50
34 2003 Taiwan Taipei Pavel Batrachenko (United States) 42.30/50
35 2004 South Korea Pohang Alexander Mikhalychev (Belarus) 47.70/50
36 2005 Spain Salamanca Gábor Halász (Hungary)
Lin Ying-hsuan (Taiwan)
37 2006 Singapore Singapore Jonathan Pradana Mailoa (Indonesia) 47.20/50
38 2007 Iran Isfahan Choi Youngjoon (Korea) 48.80/50
39 2008 Vietnam Hanoi Tan Longzhi (China) 44.60/50
40 2009 Mexico Mérida Shi Handuo (China) 48.20/50
41 2010 Croatia Zagreb Yu Yichao (China) 48.65/50
42 2011 Thailand Bangkok Hsu Tzu-ming (Taiwan) 48.50/50
43 2012 Estonia Tartu and Tallinn Attila Szabó (Hungary) 45.80/50
44 2013 Denmark Copenhagen Attila Szabó (Hungary) 47/50
45 2014 Kazakhstan Astana Xiaoyu Xu (China) 41.20/50
46 2015 India Mumbai Taehyoung Kim (Korea) 48.30/50
47 2016 Switzerland and Liechtenstein Zurich Mao Chenkai (China) 48.10/50
48 2017 Indonesia Yogyakarta Uncertain[12][13][14]
Haoyang Gao (China), theory
Akihiro Watanabe (Japan), experiment
Not published
(at most 40)[13]
49 2018 Portugal Lisbon Yang Tianhua (China) 46.8/50
50 2019 Israel Tel Aviv Xiangkai Sun (China) 43.5/50
2020 Not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic[10]
51 2021 Lithuania Vilnius TBD TBD
52 2022 Belarus TBD TBD TBD
53 2023 Japan Tokyo[15] TBD TBD
54 2024 Iran TBD TBD TBD
55 2025 France TBD TBD TBD
56 2026 Colombia TBD TBD TBD
57 2027 Hungary[3] TBD TBD TBD
58 2028 South Korea TBD TBD TBD
59 2029 Ecuador TBD TBD TBD
  • In some contests, Taiwan uses Chinese Taipei as their team name.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "IPhO history By Waldemar Gorzkowski".
  2. ^ a b "IPhO Documentations, History of IPhO".
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ Participation statistics in the International Physics Olympiads, prepared by the IPhO Secretariat
  6. ^ a b c "Statutes of the International Physics Olympiads".
  7. ^ "Final report of the 47th International Physics Olympiad in Switzerland and Liechtenstein 2016" (PDF).
  8. ^ Minutes of the Meetings of the International Board during the IPhO 2013
  9. ^ a b "Secretariat, Advisory Committee & International Board".
  10. ^ a b c d " official".
  11. ^ a b c "IPhO 2000 Results – Gold Medal Holders". University of Leicester. Archived from the original on 20 September 2000. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Minutes of the Meetings of the International Board during the IPhO 2017".
  13. ^ a b "Indonesian students win gold, silver medals in International Physics Olympiad".
  14. ^ "Indonesia Wins Two Gold, Three Silver Medals at International Physics Olympiad".
  15. ^ 2022年大会出題委員長 早野龍五氏のTwitter

External linksEdit