The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) – an annual international mathematical competition primarily for high school students – has a history of more than half a century and is the oldest of all international science Olympiads. Having attracted the participation of more than 100 countries and territories, not only has the IMO been instrumental in promoting interest in mathematics among high school students, it has also been successful in the identification of mathematical talent. For example, since 1990, at least one of the Fields Medalists in every batch had participated in an IMO earlier and won a medal. Vietnam began participating in the IMO in 1974 and has consistently done very well. Up to 2009, the Vietnamese team had already won 44 gold, 82 silver and 57 bronze medals at the IMO – an impressive performance that places it among the top ten countries in the cumulative medal tally.
This is probably related to the fact that there is a well-established tradition in mathematical competitions in Vietnam – the Vietnamese Mathematical Olympiad (VMO) started in 1962. The VMO and the Vietnamese IMO teams have also helped to identify many outstanding mathematical talents from Vietnam, including Ngo Bao Chau, whose proof of the Fundamental Lemma in Langland’s program made it to the list of Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2009 of Time magazine.