History of the IChO

The idea to organize the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) was born in the former Czechoslovakia. The political situation in Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968 was very tumultuous. Under new leaders the country was in an economic reform. Groups of intellectuals strove after a “socialism with a human face”. There was a smell of independence in the air. The people were full of activities, they wanted more contacts with other countries. One of the new ideas was to organize an International Chemical Olympiad (this was the first name for this competition).

In 1968 the Chemistry Olympiad (ChO) was a part of a secondary school system already in all countries of the Soviet block. The ChO in the Soviet Union was a model for all other countries. This was a basis on which the idea of IChO was built. The teachers in the countries were already acquainted with the competition and its firm system (from the school round to the national round) was worked out. The Ministry of Education of the particular country was guarantor of the competition. Moreover, National Committees for Chemical Olympiads were established in the particular countries. This was done rather smoothly because the first participating countries were all members of the same political block. No long explanations were necessary. But the same structure prevented any invitation to a west country.

In the spring 1968 the Czechoslovak National Committee for ChO supported by the Ministry of Education, sent letters of invitation to all “socialist” countries, except Romania, which country was not welcome by the Soviet Union at that time. However, at the beginning of May 1968 the relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union started to be “nervous”. Therefore, it is not astonishing that the invitation was accepted by Poland and Hungary only. The other three countries (Soviet Union, Bulgaria and German Democratic Republic) gave no response.

On May 15th, 1968 a meeting was organized in Ostrava (Czechoslovakia) with the aim to create some basic rules for the international competition, called later as International Chemical Olympiad. Three countries took part, with representatives of the National committees of the countries. The report gave answers to some fundamental questions that formed later a basis for the preliminary regulations of the new international competition. The first regulations were very simple and consisted of seven points.  

  1. Competitions of this kind should promote friendship and co-operation among the pupils, closer contacts among the young scientific workers, exchange of pedagogical and scientific experience.
  2. The organizer of the competition is the Ministry of Education of the organizing country.
  3. The competition should be organized at the end of the school year.
  4. National team consists of pupils and accompanying persons (teachers).
  5. Pupils of the secondary school without a special chemical orientation can only participate in the competition.
  6. The IChO is a competition of individual pupils, not a competition of teams.
  7. The IChO will consist of two parts: theoretical and experimental.

These first regulations were approved on June 21, 1968 during the 1st IChO.